Spending spree begins for free agents

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Spending spree begins for free agents

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With the transfer market heating up, half of the free agents in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) decided to choose new clubs for next season.

The deadline for free agent (FA) players to sign new contracts with their original clubs was 12 a.m. Sunday, and the KBO said that 11 of 22 FAs decided to stay with their club.

The value of the renewed contracts was 33.47 billion won ($28.95 million), which is more than half the total value of last year’s FA deals, at 63.01 billion won. Analysts expect when the ink dries on the deals of the other 11 FAs, this year will be remembered as the most expensive FA market in KBO history.

From Sunday to this Saturday at midnight, unsigned FAs can negotiate with other clubs outside of their original. They can restart negotiations with their original clubs from Dec. 6.

SK Wyverns’ Chung Sang-ho became the first FA to play for a new team next season as the catcher signed four-year deal worth 3.2 billion won with LG Twins on Sunday. The Wyverns later saw their relief pitcher Yun Kil-hyoun move to the Lotte Giants with four-year deal worth 3.8 billion won.

KT Wiz surprised on Sunday by signing Nexen Heroes outfielder Yoo Han-joon with a four-year deal worth 6 billion won. The 34-year-old was No. 1 in hits at 188 and was the second-ranked batter in the KBO with a .362 average last season.

“I wanted to wrap up my playing career with KT which is based in my hometown, Suwon,” Yoo said.

Among the 11 FAs who already inked a deal with their original clubs, Lotte Giants right hander Song Seung-jun was the first to say he would stay with his club. The 35-year-old signed a four-year deal worth 4 billion won.

Hanwha Eagles caught their two veterans just before the deadline. The Eagles managed to grab 33-year-old first baseman Kim Tae-kyun with a four-year deal worth 8.4 billion won, while also signing a two-year deal worth 1 billion won with 40-year-old catcher Cho In-sung.

The Eagles reportedly reached deals with the players just 10 minutes before midnight, and sent documents to the KBO via fax in just three minutes before the FA re-signing deadline.

Samsung Lions’ Lee Seung-yuop, the all-time home run leader in the KBO, is also staying with the Daegu-based club after signing two-year deal worth 3.6 billion won.

Among unsigned FAs, Doosan Bears’ outfielder Kim Hyun-soo, who was also MVP in the Premier 12 tournament, declared he will first try to sign with an overseas club. Still, there are some big names up for grabs.

The Lions’ third baseman Park Sok-min is thought to be one of the top FAs. Park, who won the Golden Glove last year, is coming off the best season in his career, with a .321 batting average, 26 home runs and 116 RBIs.

The Wvyerns’ lefty relieve pitcher Jung Woo-ram, who reportedly refused team’s four-year deal worth 8.2 billion won, is also getting attention along with three-time saves title winner Son Seung-lak from the Heroes.

Under KBO rules, teams who sign FAs from other clubs have to compensate the players’ original club giving them triple the player’s salary from 2015 or paying double the player’s salary and sending them one player not included in their 20-man protection list.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]


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