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Ex-MLB hitter Lee Dae-ho remains highest-paid player in KBO for 3rd straight season

Sports 09:52 February 18, 2019

SEOUL, Feb. 18 (Yonhap) -- Former Seattle Mariners first baseman Lee Dae-ho will be the highest-paid player in the top South Korean baseball league for the third straight season.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) announced the league-wide salary data for the 2019 season on Monday. And Lee, a veteran slugger for the Lotte Giants, topped all players with an annual salary of 2.5 billion won (US$2.2 million).

In this file photo from Oct. 7, 2018, Lee Dae-ho of the Lotte Giants heads to first base in the top of the eighth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game against the NC Dinos at Masan Stadium in Changwon, 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

After spending the 2016 season with the Mariners, Lee re-joined the Giants, the team that drafted him in 2001, before the 2017 season on a four-year contract worth 15 billion won -- 10 billion won in guaranteed salary and 5 billion won in signing bonus.

Lee has mostly lived up to his hefty contract. He batted .320 with 34 homers and 111 RBIs in 2017, and improved those numbers to .333, 37 homers and 125 RBIs in 2018. The homer and RBI totals were both the second highest of his KBO career.

Lee's Giants boasted the highest average player salary at 195.8 million won, followed by the reigning champions SK Wyverns at 181.4 million won.

The NC Dinos enjoyed the largest annual increase in average salary with 55.2 percent, going from just over 100 million won in 2018 to 165.8 million won this year. That was largely due to their signing of coveted free agent catcher Yang Eui-ji to a four-year deal worth 12.5 billion won in December.

Yang took 6 billion won in signing bonus, and 6.5 billion won will be paid in salary over four years. Yang, who made 600 million won in 2018, will earn 2 billion won in salary in 2019, which represents the biggest annual increase in the KBO.

League-wide, the average player salary was 150.7 million won, up 0.3 percent from the previous season.

The KBO said 156 players will be making more than 100 million won in 2019, down from 164 such players a year ago.

In this file photo from Jan. 8, 2019, Yang Eui-ji of the NC Dinos poses in the team's uniform during his introductory press conference in Changwon, 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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