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Rival KBO clubs pull off four-player deal involving All-Star pitcher

All News 17:32 March 25, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, March 25 (Yonhap) -- Seoul baseball rivals Doosan Bears and LG Twins completed a four-player deal on Thursday, with an All-Star pitcher switching teams about a week before the start of the regular season.

The Bears sent 2018 All-Star lefty Ham Deok-ju, along with right-hander Chae Ji-seon, to the Twins, in exchange for infielder Yang Suk-hwan and left-hander Nam Ho.

Ham Deok-ju of the Doosan Bears pitches against the KT Wiz in the top of the sixth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization preseason game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on March 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

Ham and Yang are key figures in this deal between co-tenants of Jamsil Baseball Stadium in the nation's capital.

Ham, 26, is entering his ninth season in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). He earned the 2018 All-Star as one of the league's up-and-coming closers. He finished with a 6-3 record and 27 saves, plus a 2.96 ERA in 67 innings that season.

Ham had made 24 starts in 2017 and even after a transition to bullpen, he has openly talked about wanting to become a starter again. He made six starts toward the end of last year, and had a 4.26 ERA in 25 1/3 innings in those half-dozen starts, compared to a 3.60 ERA in 30 innings as a reliever.

In this file photo from Sept. 1, 2020, Yang Suk-hwan of the LG Twins celebrates his three-run home run against the SK Wyverns in the top of the eighth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

The Twins have four starters locked into the rotation now -- Casey Kelly, Andrew Suarez, Lee Min-ho and Jeong Chan-heon -- and Ham will likely be in the bullpen for his new club.

Yang, 29, has five KBO seasons under his belt. The third baseman broke out in 2018 with a career-high 22 home runs, 82 RBIs and 27 doubles in 140 games. But then he began his mandatory military service in 2019 with the minor-league military club Sangmu, and rejoined the Twins in August 2020. By that time, the team had a new third baseman in veteran Kim Min-sung.

Yang has handled first base in previous seasons and is expected to be the Bears' new first baseman, as they have Heo Kyoung-min, an All-Star and a national team mainstay, firmly entrenched at the hot corner.

The Bears lost longtime everyday first baseman Oh Jae-il in free agency in the offseason, and the two candidates for the vacant job, Kim Min-hyuk and Shin Seong-hyun, have both gone hitless in the preseason so far.

In this file photo from Oct. 15, 2020, Chae Ji-seon of the Doosan Bears pitches against the Hanwha Eagles in the top of the ninth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Chae, a 2014 first-round draft pick by the Bears, made his KBO debut last year, and the 25-year-old was 1-0 in 37 relief appearances with a 4.91 ERA.

Nam, 20, also debuted last year as a reliever. He pitched in six games over the final two months of the season, posting a 3.93 ERA without a win-loss record.

At Jamsil, the Bears use the clubhouse on the first base side and the Twins have their lockers on the third base side. The traded players will simply move across the diamond.

In this file photo from March 16, 2021, Nam Ho of the LG Twins pitches against the Kiwoom Heroes in the bottom of the fourth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization preseason game at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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