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All-Star outfielders among 18 free agents in baseball

All Headlines 10:29 November 07, 2017

SEOUL, Nov. 7 (Yonhap) -- A pair of All-Star outfielders headlined the list of baseball free agents announced Tuesday.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) released the names of 18 players who have decided to exercise their rights and test the open market this offseason. Three players declined their free agency and one other player, Lee Ho-jun of the NC Dinos, retired after the 2016 season.

On the list this year are Lotte Giants' outfielder Son A-seop, the reigning league leader in hits, and Doosan Bears' outfielder Min Byung-hun, who has batted .300 or better in five straight seasons.

In this file photo taken Oct. 13, 2017, Son A-seop of the Lotte Giants rounds the bases after a three-run home run against the NC Dinos in the top of the fifth inning in Game 4 of their Korea Baseball Organization first round postseason series at Masan Stadium in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. (Yonhap)

Starting on Wednesday, these 18 players can negotiate with any domestic or international club.

Son, 29, appears to have piqued the interest of at least one Major League Baseball (MLB) club. Late last month, MLB tendered a status check on Son through the KBO, a formal step required by a big league club to sign any Korean professional or amateur player.

Son topped the KBO a career-high 193 hits in 2017. This is the third time he has led the league in hits.

Son batted .335 with a career-high 20 home runs and 80 RBIs while stealing 25 bases for his first 20-20 season. He had an on-base percentage of .420 and slugged at a .514 clip, thanks to 35 doubles and four triples in addition to those 20 long balls.

Son hasn't missed a game the past two seasons. He batted .300 or better in each of the past eight seasons. Son is tied with Kim Tae-kyun of the Hanwha Eagles as the active leader in career batting average with .325.

At the KBO awards ceremony on Monday, Son told reporters talks of his potential move to the majors are "premature" at this point and he hasn't heard anything concrete from stateside.

Min, 30, is a lifetime .299 hitter. In 2017, Min slashed .304/.389/.445 with 14 home runs and 71 RBIs -- slightly down from a .325/.396/.495 line, 16 homers and 87 RBIs from a year ago.

In this file photo taken Oct. 20, 2017, Min Byung-hun of the Doosan Bears rounds the bases after a grand slam against the NC Dinos in the top of the second inning in Game 3 of their Korea Baseball Organization second round postseason series at Masan Stadium in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. (Yonhap)

Other notables include Giants' catcher Kang Min-ho, who had 22 home runs and 68 RBIs this year. The hard-hitting backstop, known better for his offense and his glove, has had four 20-homer seasons and reached double digits in the long ball department in each of the past eight seasons.

SK Wyverns' outfielder Jung Eui-yoon is a free agent for the first time in his 11-year career. The 31-year-old late bloomer batted a career-high .321 in 2017, though his power numbers plummeted -- from 27 homers and 100 RBIs in 2016 to 15 homers and 45 RBIs this year.

Under the KBO rules, if there are between 11 and 20 free agents, each of the 10 clubs can sign up to two free agents from outside.

The largest free agent contract in the league history is the four-year, 15 billion won (US$13.5 million) deal signed in January 2017 by Lee Dae-ho, who rejoined his former club Giants after stints in Japan and MLB.

Among the KBO free agents, Kia Tigers' outfielder Choi Hyoung-woo owns the largest deal with a four-year, 10 billion won contract he agreed to last November.

A club that signs a free agent must pay the player's previous club hefty compensation -- either paying twice the amount of the player's 2017 salary and sending a player not on the protected list, or paying three times the amount of the player's 2017 salary.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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