Baseball free agents have little trouble finding work

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Baseball free agents have little trouble finding work

Since the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) posted 17 players who are eligible for free agency on Nov. 9, only three players are left in the market as of Monday.

Among the 17 free agents, nine of them re-signed with their current team and three players have found new clubs for next season, while the two biggest players in the free agent market are expected to play in the foreign leagues.

On Sunday, when the players were allowed to start talking with the seven other KBO clubs rather than their original club, three players found their new teams.

Two former Seoul LG Twins players, Song Shin-young and Lee Taek-geun, have signed with Daejeon Hanwha Eagles and Seoul Nexen Heroes, respectively.

The 35-year-old pitcher Song inked a three-year deal that is worth 1.3 billion won ($1.1 million) with the Eagles, while outfielder Lee, 31, decided to return to his former team the Heroes after a two-year stint with the Twins.

Lee, whose career batting average is .308, signed a four-year deal worth 5 billion won with the Heroes, the second-biggest deal since the free agent system was introduced in 1998.

Lim Gyoung-wan, the 36-year-old pitcher who played for the Busan Lotte Giants for 13 years, also signed on Sunday a three-year deal worth 1.1 billion won with the Incheon SK Wyverns.

Lim is expected to fill the void of the Wyverns’ reliever Chong Tae-hyon who announced he would play for Major League Baseball after declaring his free agency. Chong, 33, left for the United States on Friday.

With Chong going to the U.S., Giants slugger Lee Dae-ho, who experts say is the biggest player on the market, is expected to sign with a club in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.

On Saturday, the final day for in-team negotiating, Lee rejected the Giants’ contract offer of 10 billion won for four years, the highest amount in KBO history.

The 29-year-old is now linked with Japan’s Orix Buffaloes where two high-profile Korean baseball players - Park Chan-ho and Lee Seung-yeop - played last season.

“I told the Giants that I want to know my value and price in Japan,” Lee said to Ilgan Sports, JoongAng Ilbo’s daily sports newspaper. “It is true that the Buffaloes are the most active team pursuing me.”

While some players have already solidified their future for next season, Seoul Doosan Bears’ third baseman Kim Dong-joo, Twins catcher Cho In-sung and the Wyverns pitcher Lee Seung-ho have yet to find new teams after negotiations with their current clubs fell through.

Kim has a career batting average of .310 with 270 home runs in his last 14 seasons and Cho is a veteran catcher who also has batting power. The left-hander Lee is an attractive option for other clubs who want a solid relief pitcher.

Kim had the league-best salary of 700 million won and Cho had 500 million won, while Lee only received 200 million won last season for his salary.


By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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