As a contract worth 11.9 billion won was concluded in one day in the free agent market, a hot stove league market is expected again this year, and attention is focused on the future of Yang Seok-hwan (31), the only remaining hitter.
On the 18th, KBO announced the list of 19 FA-approved players. Yang Seok-hwan, Kim Jae-yoon, Ahn Chi-hong, Jeon Jun-woo, and Ham Deok-ju were selected as big-time free agent players expected to receive large contracts, but the mainstream assessment was that it was not likely that a contract worth close to or exceeding 10 billion won would be issued, as was the case last winter.
However, just two days after the free agent market opened, a contract worth a total of 11.9 billion won was concluded. First, on the morning of the 20th, Lotte announced a four-year contract worth a total of 4.7 billion won (4 billion won guaranteed, 700 million won in incentives) with internal free agent Jeon Jun-woo, succeeding in retaining the franchise star. Then, in the afternoon, Hanwha surprised fans by signing Ahn Chi-hong for a total of KRW 7.2 billion over 4+2 years (KRW 4.7 billion guaranteed for 4 years, KRW 800 million for options, KRW 1.3 billion for mutual options for 2 years, and KRW 400 million for options).
Jeon Jun-woo is a veteran hitter with a batting average of .300 (1,812 hits in 6,775 at-bats), 196 home runs, 888 RBIs, and an OPS of .829 in 1,616 games in the KBO League. Although he will be 38 years old next year, he still showed off his skills this year with a batting average of .301 and 2.0% in 138 games (154 hits in 493 at-bats), 17 home runs, and 77 RBIs with an OPS of .852. With this contract, Lotte will be able to retain Jeon Jun-woo, who has only played for Lotte since joining the team in 2008, as a one-club man.
Ahn Chi-hong changed teams once again during his second free agency. Ahn Chi-hong, who recorded a batting average of .2097 (1,687 hits in 5,677 at-bats), 140 home runs, 843 RBIs, and .800 OPS in 1,620 games in the KBO League, has a batting average of .2092 (124 hits in 425 at-bats) in 121 games this year, with 8 home runs and 63 RBIs. He recorded .774. It is unfortunate that he did not exceed 10 home runs, but his productivity at the plate was not bad.
With Jeon Jun-woo and Ahn Chi-hong completing their free agency contracts early, only Yang Seok-hwan remains as the biggest hitter. Yang Seok-hwan is only 32 years old, younger than Jeon Jun-woo and Ahn Chi-hong, but his strength is his power, which allowed him to hit over 20 home runs in Jamsil. In a total of 897 games in the KBO League, he recorded a batting average of .206.5 (801 hits in 3,024 at-bats), 122 home runs, 499 RBIs, and an OPS of .758. This year, in 140 games, he recorded a batting average of .208.1 (147 hits in 524 at-bats), 21 home runs, and 89 RBIs. He hit .787 and succeeded in hitting 20 home runs for three consecutive years. It is even more meaningful because it was achieved at Jamsil Stadium, an extremely pitcher-friendly stadium.
Considering his age and slugging power, Yang Seok-hwan is a more attractive player than Jeon Jun-woo and Ahn Chi-hong. However, while both Jeon Jun-woo and Ahn Chi-hong received a B grade as their second free agent, Yang Seok-hwan received an A grade as his first free agent. Since the scale of FA compensation (1 compensated player (20 protected players) + 200% of annual salary or 300% of annual salary) is larger than that of Jeon Jun-woo and Ahn Chi-hong, teams trying to recruit Yang Seok-hwan have no choice but to worry.
Another variable in the market surrounding Seok-Hwan Yang is the second draft. There are clubs watching SSG with interest as the veteran hitter is not included in the 35 protected players. There is a possibility that clubs that succeeded in reinforcing their batting lineup in the second draft may lose interest in Yang Seok-hwan.
However, the free agent market appears to be hotter than expected. Jeon Jun-woo, who renewed his contract with Lotte, revealed that there was competition to recruit him, saying, “It was true that there were better offers from other teams.” It is known that many clubs, including Hanwha, have attempted to recruit Ahn Chi-hong.
With the free agent market this winter burning hotter than originally expected, fans are watching with interest to see which team and what contract Yang Seok-hwan, the last remaining hitter, will sign. /[email protected]