‘4.5 billion’ investment → Recruitment of an external FA…But why do the internal FA starting pitchers be neglected?

Outside free agents spent a lot of money and actively recruited two people. However, the free agency was lukewarm, and one of them eventually left for another team. The contract with the remaining one is also unclear. This is the FA story of Kiwoom Heroes, the runner-up in the Korean Series.

After the Korean Series last year, Kiwoom recruited bullpen pitchers and outfielders from the free agent market. He signed a free agent contract with veteran bullpen pitcher Won Jong-hyeon (36) for a total of 2.5 billion won over four years. Full coverage with no options. The down payment is 500 million won, and the annual salary is 500 million won.

Right-handed outfielder Lee Hyung-jong (34), who came to the market as a free agent in the Futures League, also signed a four-year, two-billion-won contract. Futures League free agents cannot exceed 100% of the previous season’s annual salary. However, multi-year contracts are possible.

Kiwoom signed a contract with Lee Hyung-jong for an annual salary of 120 million won, the same as last year, and 680 million won – 600 million won – 600 million won for three years from next year, and all 2 billion won is guaranteed. He became the winner in the recruitment competition with other teams.

However, Kiwoom, which invested 4.5 billion won in bullpens and outfielders in their mid-30s, did not even actively negotiate with FA pitchers Han Hyun-hee and Jeong Chan-heon.

Han Hyun-hee eventually left for his hometown team on the 17th, signing a contract with Lotte for up to 4 billion won for 3+1 years. His guaranteed amount is 1.8 billion won and the option is 2.2 billion won. A clause has been included that allows Han Hyun-hee to opt out after the 2025 season if he achieves the individual performance set by the club during his first three seasons. Jeong Chan-heon is still a lost child.

Kiwoom focused on strengthening the bullpen and reinforcing outfielders to challenge last year’s unsuccessful attempt to win the Korean Series. Both Won Jong-hyun and Lee Hyeong-jong’s contract amount was higher than expected. I was a little more curious because it was Kiwoom. Actively invested in positions that were needed in the poor housekeeping.

Kiwoom, who was second in the first half of last year, suffered a sluggish 9-15 record (.375 win rate) due to the collective hunting of the bullpen in August, and was pushed back in the rankings. In the final game of the season, it beat KT and took 3rd place. Except for Lee Jung-hoo and foreign hitter Puig in the outfield, the offense was weak. This year, the foreign hitter parted ways with Puig and re-recruited Major League All-Star shortstop Edison Russell. The bullpen and outfield were Kiwoom’s key words to reinforce their strength.

Kiwoom’s perspective on starting pitchers is different. Most teams value starting resources, but Kiwoom has two foreign pitchers (Yokishi and Hurado) and a special ace named An Woo-jin. The 4th pick is Choi Won-tae. 1-4 starters look stable. 스포츠토토

Left-hander Lee Seung-ho showed potential for starting in the postseason. Jang Jae-young, an ‘unfinished prospect’, is also a resource that needs to be steadily developed as a starter. Kim Seon-gi, Yoon Jeong-hyeon, and Joo Seung-woo were thrown as temporary starters last year. Is it a plan to replace the 34 starting games played by Han Hyun-hee (20 games) and Jeong Chan-heon (14 games) last year with younger players? However, the number of starting pitchers seems insufficient.

Just as free agent Park Byeong-ho left for KT last year, Han Hyun-hee left this winter. Wouldn’t even Jung Chan-heon sign a contract? Jeong Chan-heon pitched in 19, 23, and 20 games as a starting pitcher for three seasons from 2020, when he returned to rehabilitation after undergoing back surgery.   

He recorded an average ERA of 3.51-114⅓ innings, 7 wins and 4 losses in 110⅓ innings, an average ERA of 4.01-87⅓ innings, 5 wins and 6 losses, and an ERA of 5.36. He was sluggish last year ahead of free agency, but overall, it is not bad with 5 starts.

Jeong Chan-heon, who is doing personal training, said in an interview with OSEN, “It’s a pity that last year’s grades weren’t good. When I switched to starting (after surgery rehabilitation), there were difficult parts the day after pitching, but now the recovery time is normal and there is no problem with continuous fighting.”

He showed confidence that he could do well in any position, saying, “I have a lot of experience as a starting pitcher as well as a middle relief pitcher, so I have no problem throwing as a long relief or bullpen pitcher.” Will good news come to Jeong Chan-heon, who is waiting for a call from the club, including Kiwoom?

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