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KBO unveils star-studded list of players eligible for free agency

All Headlines 10:37 November 06, 2013

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 6 (Yonhap) -- The top domestic baseball league on Wednesday announced a star-studded list of potential free agents.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said 21 players will be eligible to declare for free agency this offseason. They have until Friday to exercise their rights.

Headlining the list are two key members of the Samsung Lions, the three-time reigning KBO champions. Outfielder Park Han-yi, the 2013 Korean Series MVP, and left-handed pitcher Jang Won-sam, who had a 2.25 ERA in two Korean Series starts, can become free agents this offseason.

Their right-handed closer, Oh Seung-hwan, is also eligible, but the Lions announced Tuesday that they will allow him to test foreign markets this offseason. If Oh, the KBO's all-time leader with 277 saves, wants to be posted for Major League Baseball (MLB) teams or enter negotiations with teams in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), he must not exercise his KBO free agency rights.

The Kia Tigers' right-hander Yoon Suk-min is also eligible, but he has already expressed his desire to pitch in the majors. He left for the United States last month to gauge interest and discuss his future options with his uber-agent, Scott Boras. The Minnesota Twins are reportedly interested in the service of the 2011 KBO MVP.

On Saturday, the KBO will announce the list of players who have declared free agency. They will then have from Nov. 10 to 16 to negotiate with their current clubs. If these talks fall through, then they can talk with eight other teams in the league between Nov. 17 and 23.

If they're unable to reach an agreement, then they can enter negotiations with every team in the league from Nov. 24 to Jan. 15 next year.

Players not signed by Jan. 15 will remain free agents.

If nine or fewer players declare free agency, teams may only sign one free agent apiece. If the number of free agents available is between 10 and 18, then teams can each sign two free agents.

To be eligible for free agency in the KBO, position players who graduated from four-year universities must have played in at least two-thirds of the team's regular-season games for eight seasons. The term is nine seasons for high school graduates.

In order for pitchers to become free agents, those who join the league out of four-year colleges must throw at least two-thirds of the minimum number of innings required over eight seasons. The minimum number of innings equals the number of games in a season.

If a team signs a free agent, then it must meet one of the two following requirements: pay two times the player's previous salary and ship a player in compensation to the signee's previous team, or pay that team three times the signee's previous salary.

Park Han-yi, 34, has spent his entire 13-year career with the Lions and won six championships. He's a career .292 hitter with some gap power, and batted .284 in 2013 with six home runs and 55 RBIs.

Jang Won-sam, 30, went 13-10 with a 4.38 ERA in 27 starts. He's at 88-65 lifetime with a 3.66 ERA.

The Doosan Bears, runners-up to the Lions in the Korean Series, have three players who can declare free agency: slick-fielding shortstop Son Si-heon, speedy outfielder Lee Jong-wook and slugging first baseman Choi Jun-seok.

Choi helped his own stock a great deal in the playoffs, belting six home runs and hitting .341 in 14 games. He had just seven home runs in 100 regular season games.

The LG Twins, another playoff club, have four eligible players, including the 2013 batting champion Lee Byung-kyu, who hit .348 this year, and speedster Lee Dae-hyung, who swiped 246 bags from 2007 to 2010.

The Lotte Giants could lose their catcher Kang Min-ho, an All-Star and a South Korean national team fixture. The 28-year-old is an increasingly rare breed of KBO catchers who can hit for power. Though he managed only 11 home runs this year, Kang had averaged 20 homers a year from 2010 to 2012.

The SK Wyverns' second baseman Jeong Keun-woo, 31, is also eligible for free agency. Widely viewed as the KBO's best defensive second baseman, the scrappy player is a career .301 hitter and has stolen at least 20 bases in each of the past eight seasons.

Another notable player is outfielder Lee Yong-kyu of the Tigers. The 28-year-old has a lifetime batting average of .295 and has stolen an average of 30 bases a year over the past three seasons. One of the league's finest contact hitters, Lee has struck out only once in every 10 at-bats over his 10-year career.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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