Success close, Giants struggle to fill holes

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Success close, Giants struggle to fill holes

The Lotte Giants are coming off two consecutive postseason appearances, and so it’s not surprising club officials and fans are both talking about making it to the Korea Series next season.

But in order to improve on their past performances, the Giants need a trade to fill the holes in their roster - and pulling the trigger on the right trade will be easier said than done for the Busan-based club this offseason.

One of the more glaring deficiencies on the Lotte roster is the third-base position. Lee Dae-ho, the hefty third baseman with a powerful stroke, has switched to first base. At the plate, Lee was an intimidating force, having finished fourth in the league with 28 home runs, and also drove in 100 runs on a .293 batting average. Yet on the field, he was far from impressive and often looked shaky, committing 15 errors. Closer John Adkins, tied for most saves in the league with 26 last season, has departed altogether, leaving the front office with a need to bolster its bullpen.

The Giants attempted a trade for Seoul Heroes third baseman Hwang Jae-gyun at the end of last season, but the offer was turned down. The Heroes consider Hwang one of their untouchables. But to hear some Heroes insiders tell it, Lotte didn’t seem serious in their inquiry about Hwang.

“Lotte wasn’t willing to give up either the cash or the type of players needed to trade for Hwang,” said one Heroes official.

One of the reasons for Lotte’s failure to pull off the trade was that other teams are fully aware of Lotte’s needs.

“It is true that we are inquiring about trades. We do have a lot of prospects, but there is no point in trading any of our prospects if we do not get a player capable of making an immediate impact for our club,” said Lotte Giants General Manager Lee Sang-koo.

In reality, there aren’t too many teams in the KBO that can offer a third baseman or a closer to the Giants. Since other clubs know of the Giants’ needs, it will also be hard for their front office to pull off a favorable trade.

Since Lotte has a bevy of pitching prospects in their farm system, most teams are gunning for their young pitchers.

“All teams we have held talks with have asked for pitchers. But the offers we have received in return are all below expectations,” added Lee.

Another reason it’s been difficult for Lotte to pull off a trade is their American manager, Jerry Royster. Trading from the front office is never easy in the KBO - it often takes a good relationship between the two respective managers to grease the wheels and make a good trade happen.

Royster is currently in the U.S. and is expected to return on Jan. 14. The only time he’s spoke to the front office about a trade was when he discussed the need to find an infielder to replace Park Ki-hyeok, who left to serve his mandatory military service. Now Park’s mandatory military service has been delayed, and he is set to come to the team after the Asian Games in November.


By Choi Min-gyu [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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