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Sixteen players declare free agency in KBO

All Headlines 10:15 November 09, 2013

SEOUL, Nov. 9 (Yonhap) -- The top domestic baseball league said Saturday 16 players have declared free agency this offseason.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) announced that out of 21 players eligible for free agency, all but five have chosen to exercise their rights.

Two key members of the Samsung Lions, the three-time reigning KBO champions, are among the free agents. 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, will look to cash in on their postseason success.

Their right-handed closer, Oh Seung-hwan, was 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 also declared free agency, 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.

Free agents have from Nov. 10 to 16 to negotiate with their current clubs. If these talks fall through, then they can negotiate with eight other teams in the league between Nov. 17 and 23.

If they're unable to reach an agreement, then they can hold talks with every team in the league from Nov. 24 to Jan. 15 of 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, had three players eligible for free agency and they all decided to exercise their rights. They are: slick-fielding shortstop Son Si-heon, speedy outfielder Lee Jong-wook and slugging first baseman Choi Jun-seok.

Choi, 30, helped himself 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, had four eligible players and three declared free agency, including Lee Byung-kyu, who won the batting title this year with a .348 average, and speedster Lee Dae-hyung, who swiped 246 bags from 2007 to 2010.

The Lotte Giants' catcher Kang Min-ho is another marquee name. An All-Star and a South Korean national team fixture, the 28-year-old is part of 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, also became a free agent. Regarded 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 contact hitter has a lifetime batting average of .295 and has stolen an average of 30 bases a year over the past three seasons.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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