Kiwoom officially announced on the 20th that it had completed contracts with 51 people subject to annual salary contracts in 2023. As the completion of salary negotiations between the 10 KBO league clubs is particularly slow, Kiwoom is the first to get up from the table.
Despite concerns that there were many leaks in his objective power, Kiwoom’s potential was great. After holding out in the postseason competition, they beat LG in the playoffs and caused an upset, and went to the Korean Series. Although it lost 2 wins and 4 losses to SSG, the regular season champion, and stayed in runner-up, many officials applauded Kiwoom’s season. Players who made good individual achievements because of their good grades received relatively high salaries.
Lee Jung-hoo, who had a splendid coronation by winning 5 batting crowns last year, became the first non-FA player to earn an annual salary of over 1 billion won (1.1 billion won), and Ahn Woo-jin, the best pitcher, signed a contract for 350 million won, a 133.3% increase. Recognized for last year’s hard work. Main catcher Lee Ji-yeong signed for 500 million won, up from 300 million won to 200 million won, and Kim Hye-seong (420 million won) and Kim Jae-woong (220 million won) each rose by more than 100 million won.
The basic salary level was not high, and the team’s performance was good, so even if it was a little sluggish, the reduction was not so great. However, one player was an exception. It was veteran Lee Yong-gyu (38) who recorded the highest cut (100 million won) and cut (-25%) within the team. Lee Yong-gyu was cut 100 million won from 400 million won last year to 300 million won this year.
The cuts themselves were nothing short of foretold. Lee Yong-kyu’s batting average stayed at 0.199 in 86 games last year. It was unbelievable that his batting average 안전놀이터 (.296) in 1911 KBO League career games was the batting average of this alternate hitter approaching 30%. Excluding his debut season, Lee Yong-gyu’s lowest batting average for the season was 0.263 in 2017, when he was struggling with a single injury. His OPS, the sum of his on-base percentage and slugging percentage, was only 0.547. His offensive productivity has dropped too much. His performance in the postseason wasn’t very good either. Perhaps it was fortunate that his salary had not been cut further.
Several reasons have been suggested for Lee Yong-kyu’s sluggish performance. The analysis that the overall widened strike zone shook the eyes of Lee Yong-kyu, who has a small physique, comes out strongly, but the complex analysis that he did not show his skills in overall batted ball speed or contact is more convincing. His early age in his late 30s is obviously also a burden. Demonstrating leadership as a captain would obviously be a major consideration, but I couldn’t help but feel a sense of crisis amid falling grades.
2023 is expected to be a watershed for Yong-gyu Lee’s remaining active service period. Lee Hyeong-jong, who signed a 4-year, 2 billion won contract through the Futures FA system, joined the outfield, and Lim Byeong-wook, who said he was not inferior to Kim Ha-seong (San Diego) in terms of ‘talent’, was discharged and will join the team this year. With Lee Jung-hoo firmly holding his position, juniors such as Lim Ji-yeol and Park Chan-hyuk are expected to be tough to pursue. It is difficult for Lee Yong-gyu to hit farther than them. He needs to bring his skills back to life, including his accuracy and on-base percentage.
Lee Yong-gyu had quite a few twists and turns in his career, but he was a player who always overcame the crisis with his unique grit. He moved to Kiwoom in 2021 and showed off his health by recording a batting average of 0.296 and an on-base percentage of 0.392 in 133 games, and this memory is not far off. Kiwoom raised Lee Yong-gyu’s annual salary, which was 100 million won, to 400 million won after the 2021 season. Attention is focusing on whether this little giant, who is about to play in the 2000th KBO game, will be able to make an upward trend again.