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(LEAD) Free agent lefty Yang Hyeon-jong re-signs with original club for 1 year

All Headlines 17:52 December 20, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout, photo)

SEOUL, Dec. 20 (Yonhap) -- All-star left-hander Yang Hyeon-jong will return to his original South Korean club for one more season.

The free agent pitcher agreed to a 2.25 billion won (US$1.89 million) deal with the Kia Tigers. Yang will make 1.5 billion won in annual salary and received 750 million won in signing bonus. It's the most lucrative one-year deal signed by a free agent in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).

The 28-year-old had been the biggest prize left in the open market this offseason, and he had long made clear he wanted to re-sign with the Tigers.

Yang tossed a career-high 200 1/3 innings in 2016, with a 10-12 record and a 3.68 ERA. Yang has reached double figures in victories for three straight seasons. His innings pitched totals have increased in each of the past four years. No KBO pitcher has thrown more innings than Yang's 556 from 2014 to 2016.

He's spent his entire 10-year KBO career with the Tigers, and has an 87-60 record with a 3.95 ERA in 305 appearances.

In this file photo taken on Oct. 11, 2016, Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers throws a pitch against the LG Twins in the Korea Baseball Organization wild card game at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

"Unless I was going to pitch in a foreign country, I always thought I'd play for the Kia Tigers," Yang said. "After considering different options, I decided to sign for one year. I will work hard this winter to have an even stronger season next year."

Yang received an offer from the Yokohama DeNA BayStars in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), and also drew interest from the majors. In 2014, he was posted for big league clubs, and an unidentified team won the bidding for the exclusive right to negotiate with him. The Tigers, however, weren't happy with the winning amount and pulled Yang back from the market.

As an unrestricted free agent this time, Yang didn't need to go through the posting process this year. Yet he decided to stay put at least for one more season on a hefty raise. He earned 750 million won in 2016.

One-year deals are rare for free agents in the KBO. A free agent must sign for at least four years to be eligible for free agency again at the end of the contract, and most big names sign for four years to receive a lump sum amount of guaranteed money.

Believing Yang would head overseas this winter, the Tigers had actually spent huge amounts on signing two free agent hitters last month. They spent 4 billion won to lock up outfielder Na Ji-wan for four years, and gave former Samsung Lions outfielder Choi Hyoung-woo a record free agent contract, worth 10 billion won for four years.

As recently as Monday, Yang's camp said the talks with the Tigers weren't going well and the two sides remained "far apart." A Tigers' official said the club would try to get the deal done this week.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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