Eagles land two top free agents
The Eagles lived up to their reputation as the biggest spender this off-season. The team said yesterday that second baseman Jung signed a four-year, 7 billion won ($6.6 million) deal, which includes a 3.5 billion won signing bonus and 700 million won option. Lee’s four-year contract is worth 6.7 billion won, including a 3.2 billion won signing bonus and 700 million won option.
Jung’s new contract is the second biggest in KBO history. Last week, the Lotte Giants signed their 28-year-old catcher, Kang Min-ho, to a four-year, 7.5 billion won deal.
The previous biggest KBO contract was in 2004 when Shim Jung-soo, who is now retired, signed a four-year, 6 billion won deal with the Samsung Lions.
The contract process was like a flash of lightning, with Kim Jong-soo, the Eagles’ contract manager, visiting Jung’s home after midnight Saturday to seal the deal.
“Kim, who went to the same university as me, visited my home for the contract and the team’s skipper, Kim Euong-yong, made a phone call during the negotiations and persuaded me to play,” said Jung. “I decided to join the Eagles because I felt strongly that the team really wanted me.”
After graduating from Busan High School and Korea University, Jung joined the Wyverns in 2005 and has been the league’s best second baseman. He has hit .301 in 991 games over the past nine seasons, with 1,057 hits, 377 RBI and 269 steals. He also played for the gold-medal-winning Korean national team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics and 2010 Asian Games.
While Kim was finalizing the contract with Jung, Eagles general manager Roh Jae-duk met with Tigers center fielder Lee, who had been unable to reach a deal with Kia last week. Under KBO rules, free agents can negotiate only with their current team for a week after the hot stove season officially begins. If they can’t secure a contract with their current team, they can negotiate with any other team.
“After midnight, general manager Roh gave me a call and wanted to meet right away,” Lee told reporters. “He said the team really needs me for the next season and in the future. I was able to see how they trust me, though I’m still not fully recovered from my shoulder surgery.” Lee is likely to miss the first two months next season.
From 2004 to 2013, Lee averaged .295 with 1,109 hits, 300 RBI and 245 steals.
The Eagles also succeeded in retaining their own three free agents: shortstop Lee Dae-soo (four years, 2 billion won), second baseman Han Sang-hoon (four years, 1.3 billion won) and reliever Park Jung-jin (two years, 8 billion won). The Eagles have already spent 17.8 billion won on five free agents, which is the most since the Samsung Lions invested 14.5 billion won in 2004. The Lions spent 6 billion won on signing slugger Shim and 3.9 billion won for shortstop Park Jin-man.
“The Tigers’ Lee and Jung were our two targets,” Eagles skipper Kim told reporters. “We need to have decent outfielders, infielders and hitters at the top of the lineup. And I think this signing definitely improves the level of our team.”
After losing their star center fielder, the Tigers immediately signed LG Twins free agent Lee Dae-hyung to a four-year, 2.4 billion won contract. Before Lee’s contract, two Doosan Bears free agents - center fielder Lee Jong-wook and shortstop Son Si-heon - signed with the NC Dinos. The 32-year-old center fielder signed a four-year, 5 billion won deal and Son signed a four-year, 3 billion won contract.
BY kwon sang-soo [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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