Doosan has retained the right-handed slugger, who has hit 69 home runs and 236 RBIs over the last three years.
The Doosan Bears signed Yang to a free agent contract on Nov. 30 for 4+2 years and a total value of 7.8 billion won. This will keep him in the Doosan uniform until at least 2027 and up to 2029. After signing the deal, Yang said, “Joining Doosan via trade has restarted my baseball career. I believe that signing a free agent contract is the beginning, not the end. As a responsible center fielder and a good senior, I will take the lead in continuing Doosan’s unique culture.”
In fact, no other player has hit more home runs and RBIs for Doosan in the last three years since Yang donned a Doosan uniform. It’s hard to overstate the importance of Yang’s bat to the Doosan organization. But even with a free agent who can hit 20 home runs a night, and a still-healthy Yang, it’s not easy to create a strong center field. That’s why they need a resurgence from Kim Jae-hwan, who is in the midst of his worst slump this season.
In 2020, Doosan became the third franchise in history to reach the Korean Series for six consecutive years, following the SK Wyverns from 2007-2012 and the Samsung Lions from 2010-2015. However, Doosan wasn’t just celebrating its sixth consecutive Korean Series appearance. After the season, seven of their key players filed for free agency. While Doosan was able to retain Heo Kyung-min, Jung Soo-bin, Kim Jae-ho, and Yoo Hee-kwan, they were unable to prevent the departures of Oh Jae-il (Samsung), Lee Yong-chan (NC Dinos), and Choi Ju-hwan (Kiwoom Heroes).굿모닝토토 주소
The departure of Oh Jae-il, who had been the team’s center fielder and starting first baseman for the past five years, was particularly painful for Doosan. In March 2021, Doosan made a two-for-two trade with its “Jamsil rival” LG Twins, which hadn’t traded since 2008, to acquire right-handed hitter Yang Seok-hwan and left-handed prospect Nam-ho in exchange for left-hander Ham Deok-ju and right-handed prospect Chae Ji-seon. It wasn’t a bad deal for Yang Seok-hwan, who didn’t have a clear spot in the LG after leaving the military.
Of course, Ham Deok-ju’s resurgence this season with a 4-4 record, 16 saves, and a 1.62 ERA has led to a request for a background check from the Major Leagues, but for Doosan, the Yang deal was a huge success. After hitting 28 home runs and 96 RBIs in 2021 to lead Doosan to its seventh straight Korean Series appearance, Yang went on to hit 69 home runs and 236 RBIs in three years in a Doosan uniform. Yang solved the team’s potentially lengthy first base woes after Oh Jae-il’s departure.
Yang’s performance this season, ahead of his free agency, was even more remarkable. Playing 140 games for the second time in his professional career after 2018, when he was in the LG League, Yang fulfilled his role as Doosan’s center fielder by batting .281 with 21 home runs, 89 RBIs and 73 runs scored. His batting average, RBIs and runs scored were his best since his professional debut. Although he fell short of his pre-season goal of 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, he was one of the top center fielders in the league, ranking fifth in the league in home runs and RBIs.
However, despite having the “Yang-Yang Combo” of Yang and Yang Seok-hwan, who combined for 281 hits, 38 home runs and 157 RBIs this season, and Jung Soo-bin, who led the league in stolen bases (39) for the first time, Doosan still finished eighth in team runs scored (620) and last in team RBIs (565). This means that even with Yang and Yang Suk-hwan, Doosan’s center field didn’t pose much of a threat to opponents. This was especially true of Kim Jae-hwan, who batted .220 with 10 home runs and 46 RBIs in 132 games last year, his worst season in eight years as a starter.
With the departure of Kim Hyun-soo (LG), the “hitting machine” who led Doosan to its first Korean Series title in 14 years in the 2015 season, Doosan had to seriously worry about its weakening offense. However, it turned out to be unnecessary. After ranking sixth in team home runs (140) and fourth in team runs scored (807) in 2015, Doosan was first in team home runs (183), team RBI (877), and team runs scored (935) in 2016 without Kim. Much of this was due to the emergence of a new slugger in Kim Jae-hwan.
After hitting 37 homers, 124 RBIs and 107 runs in his first full season in 2016, Kim “bombed” the league with 521 hits, 116 homers, 372 RBIs and 321 runs in three years through 2018. In 2019, he slowed down a bit with 15 homers and 91 RBIs as the ball’s rebound was reduced, but he showed off his power with 30 homers and 113 RBIs in 2020 and 27 homers and 102 RBIs in 2021. At that time, Kim Jae-hwan was one of the best sluggers in the league, so much so that Doosan invested a total of KRW 11.5 billion over four years to sign him as a free agent.
However, Kim struggled in free agency last season, batting .248 with 23 home runs and 72 RBIs, and was unable to prevent Doosan from falling to ninth place. With the arrival of legendary left-handed hitting coach Lee Seung-yeop ahead of this season, there were many expectations that Jae-hwan would rebound, but the results were disastrous. Despite appearing in 132 games this season, Jae-hwan batted .220 with 89 hits, 10 home runs, 46 RBIs, and 40 runs scored, his worst season since making the jump to the main roster in 2016.
After the season ended, Kim joined Doosan’s final camp in Icheon to sweat it out with the juniors. It was highly unusual for a starter with more than 130 regular season games under his belt, and a highly paid veteran like Kim Jae-hwan, to participate in a finishing camp that was dominated by up-and-coming players. However, Kim Jae-hwan began to lose weight through heavy training and began to prepare for next season.
On November 25, Kim Jae-hwan departed for Los Angeles to receive personal training at the Baseball Academy run by Kang Jung-ho. Kang Jeong-ho, who has four years of major league experience, made a big splash among baseball fans this year when he revived Son Asub (NC), who was in a slump, into a batting champion. The resurgence of Kim Jae-hwan, who hopes to rebound next season by adding the “Kang Jeong-ho effect” to his heavy training load, will have a big impact on the Doosan batting lineup.