The Doosan Bears are preparing to negotiate with free agent pitcher Hong Gun-hee, 31. Doosan is cracking down on two internal free agents this winter, including center fielder Yang Seok-hwan (31). The team began full-scale negotiations with Yang Seok-hwan’s side on the evening of the 27th, and hopes to hold talks with Hong soon.
A Doosan official said on the 28th, “Gun-hee is definitely the power we need. We had a baseline in the first place, and we’re not going to go over it or under it. The team has done something for us, and we have measured the amount accordingly. We have a plan to meet with Hong’s side after tomorrow (Sept. 29).”굿모닝토토 도메인
Doosan acquired Hong in a trade with the KIA Tigers during the 2020 season in exchange for all-around infielder Ryu Ji-hyuk (29, now with Samsung). The move, which saw Ryu as the next big infielder, was met with a lot of backlash from Doosan fans at the time, but it was a necessary move for a team that was in desperate need of mound reinforcements.
It didn’t take long for Hong to quell the backlash. Shortly after the trade, Hong quenched Doosan’s thirst for a hard-hitting bullpen by throwing fastballs in excess of 150 kilometers per hour, and his shaky command of his pitches in close games, one of his biggest problems in the KIA era, was not evident at Doosan. It was partly the effect of using the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in Korea, Jamsil Baseball Stadium, but more importantly, he gained confidence in his pitches by consistently getting chances and producing results.
In four seasons with Doosan, Hong appeared in 237 games with 12 wins, 44 saves, 39 holds, 254⅔ innings pitched, and a 3.46 ERA. Upon joining the team, he became a mainstay of the pitching staff, and in 2021, his second year with the team, he took on the role of pitching coach, a position he held for three years until this year. From 2020 to this year, Hong made the most appearances among Doosan pitchers and ranked first in innings pitched among the bullpen. Doosan officials didn’t just say, “Here’s what you’ve done for us.”
Doosan has fully recognized Hong’s contributions in salary negotiations. His last salary with Kia was 53 million won in 2020, and Doosan paid him 110 million won in 2021, 250 million won in 2022, and 300 million won in 2023.
This year, he performed well enough as a closer until the middle of the season, although his pace dropped a bit in the second half. In 64 games, he had one win, 22 saves, five holds, 61⅔ innings pitched, and a 3.06 ERA. As in the past four years, Doosan is preparing to negotiate a deal that will reward Hong for his performance.
So far, Kim Jae-yoon (33) is the only reliever on the free agent market who has announced a deal. Kim Jae-yoon signed a four-year, $5.8 billion contract with the Samsung Lions from the KT Wiz on April 22. Samsung recognized Jae-yoon’s contributions as a closer for KT, where he collected 169 career saves. When comparing career records, it’s true that Hong Gun-hee is a close second, and it seems difficult to get a contract of Kim Jae-yoon’s size. However, Doosan will try to give him a contract that will make him feel like they have recognized his contributions.