KT Wiz swaps future ace pitcher to improve offense, catchers

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KT Wiz swaps future ace pitcher to improve offense, catchers

On Saturday night, a mega trade between the KT Wiz and the Lotte Giants surprised KBO League fans.

The KBO rookie club Wiz said that it will send pitchers Park Se-woong, Lee Sung-min, Cho Hyun-woo and catcher An Joong-yeol and will receive catchers Jang Sung-woo and Yoon Yeo-woon, pitcher Choi Dae-sung, and infielder Lee Chang-jin and outfielder Ha Jun-ho.

Three of them - Jang, Lee and Ha - already played as new Wiz players on Sunday in a game against the NC Dinos in Suwon, Gyeonggi.

Experts said that the Wiz, which is at the bottom of the league, is trying to instantly boost its offense and upgrade the competitiveness of its catchers, while the Giants have reinforced their pitching by getting promising young players.

Kim Jin-hoon, the general manager of the Wiz, said that the trade is a “country-saving decision” - difficult, but necessary for the team and the league. The Wiz had to give up its starter Park, who was considered the team’s future ace.

“Park is our local starting pitcher and it’s really painful for us,” said Kim. “But we have to endure it for our future and to be a responsible part of the league.”

The Wiz lost to the NC Dinos on Sunday, bringing their record to three wins and 25 losses. Among the 25 losses, seven games were lost by just one run. Although its pitching is also not strong, the team has been trying hard to boost its offense.

In particular, Jang was one of the catchers considered to offer strong offensive skills. Although he was not a regular starting member in the Giants because of Kang Min-ho, he was considered to be a catcher who can take care of the position for the foreseeable future, as the 25-year-old has already completed his military duties.

“We first look whether the deal is suitable for team’s value,” said Kim.

“We weren’t finding much success with a cash trade, and we had weak offense with catcher position” Kim added, “Since catchers are also valuable, we need to think about the future.”

The Giants are giving up Jang, but getting promising pitchers in return.

“It’s going to be remembered as a good example of a trade” said Giants general manager Lee Yoon-won.

It is not clear how the Giants will use 19-year-old Park, who has been a promising starter for the Wiz. He has played six games this season so far and had a 5.79 ERA as a rookie. The 25-year-old Lee is also considered to be a pitcher who can boost the Giant’s bullpen right away.

“Park is a player who can really help our pitching,” said the Giants manager Lee Jong-woon. “He is a player who can carry out any role, so he will make us more competitive.”

So far, the Giants’ starting rotation is comprised of Josh Lindblom, Brooks Laley, Song Seung-jun, Shim Soo-chang and Lee Sang-hwa. If the Giants start Park, the Giants can switch either Shim or Lee to relief pitchers.

According to Lee, it was the Giants that first pushed for the trade deal. The talk between two clubs came after the Wiz made its first trade deal with the LG Twins on April 20, exchanging pitcher Lee Jun-hyung for Twins’ catcher Yoon Yo-sup and infielder Park Yong-keun.

“By offering big names like Jang Sung-woo and Park Se-woong, we had trouble getting the right combination of other players to match our players’ value,” Lee said. “But I think both sides got practical and gained what they wanted.”

BY BAE JUNG-HYUNE, AN HEE-SOO [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]

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