KBO announces list of 40 players that qualify for free agency

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KBO announces list of 40 players that qualify for free agency

Choi Jeong of the SSG Landers rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Kiwoom Heroes in Game 1 of the 2022 Korean Series at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon on Nov. 1.  [NEWS1]

Choi Jeong of the SSG Landers rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Kiwoom Heroes in Game 1 of the 2022 Korean Series at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon on Nov. 1. [NEWS1]

 
The KBO on Sunday announced the list of players who qualify for free agency this year.
 
The players on the list have until Tuesday to decide if they want to opt for free agency. The KBO will then announce the final list of free agents on Wednesday, and teams will be free to begin signing players from Thursday.
 
A total of 40 players are eligible to claim free agency this season, more than double the 19 players last year. The NC Dinos have the most potential free agents, with eight, while the Lotte Giants and Hanwha Eagles have just one each.
 
Eleven of this year’s potential free agents have been categorized in the KBO’s “A” category for the top potential candidates, with 14 players in the “B” category and 15 players in the “C” category.
 
Two of the Dinos’ eight potential free agents fall into the “A” category, pitcher Sim Chang-min and infielder Park Min-woo. Pitchers Lee Jae-hak and Won Jong-hyan are also up for free agency, as are infielder No Jin-hyuk and outfielders Kwon Hui-dong and Lee Myung-ki.
 
Catcher-come-designated-hitter Yang Eui-ji, who joined the Dinos on what, at the time, was a record free agent deal at the end of 2018, rounds off the Dinos list. He is one of seven players this year that could enter the market for a second time.
 
The reigning champion SSG Landers have six potential free agents including franchise star Choi Jeong. Choi falls into the “C” category as this would be his third time on the market, but still remains a crucial part of the Landers lineup. In the recent Korean Series, Choi batted .476 with two homers and nine runs batted in.
 
Potentially joining Choi are pitchers Park Jong-hun and Lee Tae-yang, catcher Lee Jae-won and position players Han Yoo-seom and Oh Tae-gon. Han and Park both fall into the KBO’s “A” category.
 
The LG Twins, who finished the regular season in second place only to slip back to third in the playoffs, have three potential “A” candidates — catcher Yoo Kang-nam and infielders Chae Eun-seong and Seo Geon-chang — the most of any team.
 
Also up for LG are pitchers Kim Jin-sung and Im Chan-kyu.
 
The KT Wiz, who finished fourth this season, also have five players eligible to take free agency, but none falling in the top-tier bracket. Pitchers Jun Yu-soo and An Young-myung and infielders Shin Bon-ki, Shim Woo-jun and Park Kyung-su are the potential candidates for KT.
 
For the Samsung Lions, outfielder Koo Ja-wook is the biggest possible loss and the only “A” candidate, with fellow outfielder Kim Hun-gon, infielders Oh Sun-jin and Kim Sang-su and pitcher Kim Dae-woo also earning a shot at the market.
 
The Doosan Bears, who have struggled with high numbers of high-caliber free agents in recent years, come off relatively lightly this season with just four on the line. The biggest loss for the Bears would be starting catcher Park Sei-hyok, with the three other spots going to pitchers: Lim Chang-min, Jang Won-jun and Lee Hyun-seung.
 
Fifth-place finishers the Kia Tigers also have a starting catcher on the line in Park Dong-won, with outfielders Ko Jong-wook and Na Ji-wan also able to throw their hats into the ring.
 
The Kiwoom Heroes, who challenged the Landers in the Korean Series, only have two potential free agent candidates, pitchers Han Hyun-hee and Jeong Chan-heon.
 
The sole candidates for the Giants and Eagles are both “C” category pitchers — Kang Yoon-goo for Lotte and Jang Si-hwan for the Eagles, leaving the two sides practically untouched in this year’s free agent market.
 
The KBO free agent market has been fairly dramatic in recent years. In 2019, a total of 24 players were eligible for free agency, while in 2020 the Bears alone had seven players opt for free agency. Last year was relatively quieter, with 14 players only opting for free agency, although some fairly big names did change hands.
 
With so many players eligible to enter the market this year, it seems highly likely it’s going to be another busy winter.

BY JIM BULLEY [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]
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