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Elephant Rumblings: KBO and NPB are landing spots for locked out players in a lurch

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MLB: Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Thursday, Athletics Nation!

There is no Major League Baseball on the horizon any time soon, and the daily lockout bargaining meetings have evaporated after this week’s deadline drama. As the smoke clears from the cancelling of Opening Day, and ambiguity rises from the fact that it could be anywhere from a month to a year until we see the green-and-gold on the field again, we will have to soldier on and pay attention to the other errata around the baseball world.

One interesting facet to keep an eye on is the players’ ability to play in leagues not affiliated with MLB. This concept largely sprung forward from an Instagram post by Bryce Harper this Monday.

As detailed in Baseball America by Kyle Glaser, an attractive place for some players to spend time while enduring the lockout may be Korea or Japan. The players’ contracts have full allowance to play for other leagues when there is a work stoppage like a lockout, and the MLBPA has stated that they will happily defend any disputes that may arise from players doing so.

While Bryce’s post may have been tongue-in-cheek, other players have taken this as a legitimate avenue. Mentioned in the article is 2021 A’s pitcher Burch Smith, as the reliever signed with the Seibu Lions in Japan this January.

The leagues in Asia have often been an option for fringe big leaguers looking to prove themselves for MLB opportunities, and this year they provide an extra layer of security for some players who would normally be fighting for a 40-man roster spot this time of year. If the lockout does end soon, those players in Nippon Professional Baseball or the Korean KBO League would still have the ability to sign a new contract with an MLB team like any other free agent.

Foreign player roster spots are quite restricted in both leagues, so don’t expect to tune into a Nippon Ham Fighters game and suddenly see an outfield of Harper, Trout, and Betts. But as an option to stay in game shape and get some at-bats, taking a trip across the Pacific might be the right path for a select amount of players.

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