Image credit: Woo-Suk Go (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
The Padres are turning to Asia to fill their bullpen needs.
The Padres have signed Korean closer Woo-Suk Go to a two-year, $4.5 million contract with a mutual option for 2026, the team announced Wednesday. The signing comes less than two weeks after the Padres signed Japanese closer Yuki Matsui to a five-year, $28 million contract that includes opt-outs after the third and fourth years.
Matsui and Go were two of the premier closers in Asia in recent years. Matsui, a 28-year-old lefthander, notched 236 saves in nine seasons as Rakuten’s closer and led the Pacific League in saves three times. He went 2-3, 1.57 with a career-high 39 saves for the Golden Eagles in 2023 and recorded 72 strikeouts against just 13 walks in 57.1 innings.
Go, a 25-year-old righthander, had 139 saves over the last five seasons for LG Twins in the Korea Baseball Organization. He went 3-8, 3.89 with 15 saves in an injury-shortened 2023 season but returned to close out the final game of the Korean Series. He posted a 1.48 ERA with a KBO-leading 42 saves in 2022.
The class of players coming over from Asia for the 2024 season is arguably the deepest ever.
Matsui and Go will help fill out a Padres bullpen that lost closer Josh Hader and late-inning relievers Nick Martinez, Luis Garcia and Scott Barlow in free agency. Lefthanders Tim Hill (non-tendered) and Ray Kerr (traded) also will not return from last year’s team.
Here are scouting reports on Matsui and Go, and what they project to contribute to the Padres’ bullpen.
Yuki Matsui, LHP
Born: Oct. 30, 1995. B-T: L-L. HT: 5-8. WT: 163.
Track Record: Matsui first rose to prominence in high school when he set a Koshien summer tournament record with 22 strikeouts in a game. He was drafted in the first round of the Nippon Professional Baseball draft the following year and debuted in NPB at 18. After beginning his career as a starter, Matsui shifted to relief and became one of Japan’s most decorated closers. He recorded 236 saves in nine seasons as Rakuten’s closer, led the Pacific League in saves three times and won a gold medal with Japan at the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Scouting Report: Matsui is undersized at 5-foot-8, 163 pounds and throws with maximum effort in short stints. His average fastball sits 91-93 mph and touches 95 with riding life up in the zone. His diving 87-90 mph splitter is an above-average pitch that gets ground balls from both lefhanded and righthanded hitters. Matsui mostly throws those two pitches, but he also has an above-average, sharp mid-80s slider that plays against hitters on both sides of the plate. He rounds out his arsenal with a fringy, 75-78 mph curveball. Matsui struggles to control his effort at times and is prone to sailing fastballs. He posted a career-low walk rate last season but has demonstrated below-average control over his career.
The Future: Matsui projects to be a low-to-mid leverage reliever handles both lefties and righties. He’s ready to join a big league bullpen on Opening Day.
BA Grade: 45/Medium
Fastball: 45. Curveball: 45. Slider: 55. Splitter: 55. Control: 40
Woo-Suk Go, RHP
Born: Aug. 6, 1998. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 198.
Track Record: Go debuted in the Korea Baseball Organization as a teenager and quickly emerged as a top closer with premium velocity for the league. He recorded 139 saves in five seasons for the LG Twins after becoming their closer, including a league-leading 42 saves in 2022, and represented Korea at the Tokyo Olympics. Go missed the 2023 World Baseball Classic with shoulder and neck stiffness and missed a month during the regular season with a lower back injury, but he returned to help the Twins win their first Korean Series championship in 29 years. He closed out the title with a perfect ninth inning in the clincher.
Scouting Report: Go is a strong, physical righthander with power stuff. His fastball sits 93-95 mph and touches 98 with late movement at its best. He lacks deception in his delivery and his fastball flattens out at times, but he is still able to beat hitters with his pure power. Go’s best secondary pitch is a 79-83 mph downer curveball that flashes average with late bite, though it’s inconsistent. He also has a below-average, low-90s cutter that works as a chase pitch but gets hit hard in the zone. Go is an aggressive competitor and goes after hitters with his fastball, but he tends to spray it and has fringy control overall. He is married to star Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee’s younger sister and decided to come to MLB in conjunction with his brother-in-law.
The Future: Go’s fastball gives him a chance to be a low-leverage reliever, but he needs to sharpen his secondaries to become more. He’ll be 25 most of next season and still has room for growth.
BA Grade: 40/High
Fastball: 55. Curveball: 45. Cutter: 40. Control: 45