By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- A pair of All-Stars for the reigning South Korean baseball runner-up Kiwoom Heroes received big raises on Monday.
The Heroes announced their shortstop Kim Ha-seong will earn 550 million won (US$470,520) in 2020, up from 320 million won, while outfielder Lee Jung-hoo will make 390 million won, compared to 230 million won in 2019.
Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) players are under team control for their first eight seasons if they are drafted out of college, and for nine years if they join the league out of high school. Both Kim, 24, and Lee, 21, came to the KBO from high school.
The Heroes said Kim has set the record for the largest salary for a seventh-year player, breaking the record of 430 million won previously shared by current Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin in 2012 with the Hanwha Eagles and NC Dinos outfielder Na Sung-beom in 2018.
Kim batted .307/.389/.419 in 2019 and finished second in the KBO with 104 RBIs in 139 games. He led the league with a career-high 112 runs scored, and set new personal bests in hits (166) and doubles (38), too.
With 19 home runs and 33 steals, Kim fell just one homer shy of his second 20-20 season.
The 2020 season could be Kim's final one in the KBO. The Heroes have agreed to post Kim for Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs after the upcoming season, at which time Kim, barring injuries, will have completed his seventh season and gained posting eligibility.
Kim is a career .292 hitter who has averaged about 20 home runs, 92 RBIs and 21 steals over his past five years.
Lee, the 2017 Rookie of the Year, now has the record for the biggest salary for a fourth-year player. Ryu used to own that record with 240 million won in 2009.
Lee, son of KBO legend Lee Jong-beom, has quickly established himself as one of the league's premier contact hitters. He has a career .338 batting average after three seasons, and in 2019, he finished second with 193 hits in 140 games and first with 10 triples.
Behind their excellence at the plate, the Heroes finished second to the Doosan Bears in the Korean Series. And after the season, both players won Golden Gloves, which are awarded to the best overall player at each position, and were key players on the South Korean national team that clinched a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at the qualifying tournament, the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12, in November.
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