Tigers again fail to agree contract terms with Yang Hyeon-jong
Yang Hyeon-jong's highly-anticipated return to the Kia Tigers is still up in the air, with the club reporting Wednesday that the two parties had still not agreed on his new contract after five rounds of negotiations.
According to the JoongAng Ilbo, the Tigers met with Yang at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field on Wednesday for a fifth round of negotiations. Kia reportedly presented its revised final offer, but Yang left the meeting without signing. The former major leaguer reportedly requested a little more time to think.
The Tigers are reportedly offering Yang a deal worth worth 10 billion won ($8.4 million) for four years, but whatever the terms of that deal are, Yang and his representatives clearly don't think they are favorable.
The issue may be incentives. Kia's offer is believed to include significant incentives, rather than guaranteed salary. This is likely a safety measure on the part of the club — Yang is 33 years old and the last couple of years, whether in the United States or Korea, certainly haven't been the best of his career.
After playing his entire career in Gwangju, Yang left the Tigers last year in favor of a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers, where he hoped to break into the big leagues and make a name for himself. He ended up having a rollercoaster year, shuttling between the majors and minors in the Rangers farm system.
Yang was called up in late April, debuting on April 27 with an impressively long relief appearance, pitching four and one third innings and giving up five hits and two runs while striking out one for a 4.15 ERA. Yang's four inning stint was the second-longest relief appearance ever by a Texas Ranger in his MLB debut, but things quickly started to go awry for the fledgling Texan and he was sent down again in June after a difficult few starts.
He bounced back up again in late August, appearing in a single game before being sent down again, only to return within 24 hours when MLB rosters were expanded from 26 to 28 players.
Yang appeared in three games during his last stint and was sent down again in the middle of September. His 12 major league appearances leave him with a 5.60 ERA, three losses and an expired one-year contract.
In Korea, Yang was a very different caliber player. After making his first appearance with the Tigers in 2007, Yang has appeared in 425 games across 14 seasons, with a 3.83 career ERA and 147 wins to his name.
Yang was posted by the Tigers after the 2014 season but couldn't land a major deal then.
In each of the ensuing six seasons since deciding to stay with the Tigers, Yang has thrown at least 170 innings. In that span, the workhorse left-hander leads all KBO pitchers with 85 wins, 10 complete games, 925 strikeouts and 1,119 and one-third innings pitched.
In 2017, Yang was voted the regular season MVP here, thanks to a 20-6 record and a 3.44 ERA. He earned the Korean Series MVP award in 2017 by leading the Tigers to their first championship in eight years. Yang pitched a complete game shutout and saved the clinching game in that series.
Yang was even better in 2019, when he was 16-8 with a 2.29 ERA in 29 starts while giving up only six home runs in 184 and two-thirds innings. Yang was quieter in the 2020 season, with 11 wins and 10 losses in 31 starts with a 4.70 ERA.
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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