Choi signs a record contract

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Choi signs a record contract

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Free-agent third baseman Choi Jeong signed a record 8.6 billion won ($7.77 million) contract for four years on Wednesday to stay with the SK Wyverns. The deal includes a 4.2 billion won signing bonus and 4.4 billion in salary.

After negotiating with Choi on Monday, SK announced he had responded positively to the club’s largest-ever offer, and they would hammer out the details by Wednesday, the deadline for teams to retain their free agents.

The amount is unprecedented, but not unexpected. Last winter, the Wyverns gave Choi a 35 percent raise to 700 million won in hopes he would stay or the team would receive substantial compensation if he left.

Teams that lose free agents receive either 300 percent of the annual salary or 200 percent and a player. Experts predicted Choi would get 8 billion to 10 billion won for a four-year contract.

Choi was considered the cream of this year’s crop among 19 free agents. The 27-year-old third baseman has won Golden Gloves for the past three years and has 168 homers with a .292 batting average over his 10-year career with the Wyverns.

The LG Twins, meanhile, signed free-agent outfielder Park Yong-taik, who has spent 13 years with the team, to a 5 billion won, four-year contract.

And lefty pitcher Jang Won-jun decided not to rejoin the Lotte Giants. His likely destinations will be the LG Twins, managed by his mentor Yang Sang-moon, and the pitching starved Hanwha Eagles.

Outfielder Sim Jeong-soo signed with the Samsung Lions for 6 billion won in 2004. But the next big-money contract didn’t occur until 2011, when Lee Taek-keun re-signed with the Nexen Heroes for 5 billion won. The following year, Kim Joo-chan was offered 5 billion won to join the Kia Tigers.

The NC Dinos, who joined the first division in 2013, also played a part in the skyrocketing price of free agents, signing Lee Jong-wook, Lee Ho-Jun and Son Si-Heon before the season. As an expansion team, the Dinos were not required to give up any of their players.

The market exploded last year. The Lotte Giants gave catcher Kang Min-ho a 7.5 billion won deal, the previous record, and the Hanwha Eagles signed Jeong Keun-woo for 7 billion won and Lee Yong-kyu for 6.7 billion won. Jang Won-sam stayed with the Samsung Lions for 6 billion won.

Meanwhile, the Kia Tigers announced on Wednesday they decided to keep their ace, Yang Hyeong-jong, refusing a bid from the Minnesota Twins of Major League Baseball after putting Yang in the posting system. The amount of the bid is unknown.

BY KIM HYO-KYUNG [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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