Ahead of the 2022 offseason, an authoritative interpretation came out in the KBO League that non-FA (free agent) multi-year contracts were recognized. SSG and Samsung moved quickly, and Lotte/NC/LG followed suit ahead of the 2023 season.
In the big picture, they have something in common. First of all, when I go to the market, I pressed down on popular items that I could not guarantee to catch. Starting pitchers who are popular in the market (Park Jong-hoon, Moon Seung-won, Park Se-ung, Park Se-ung, and Koo Chang-mo) were treated well, and the leading stars (Ko Ja-wook, Oh Ji-hwan), who are not easy to replace in the team, also signed contracts worth more than 10 billion won in total.
Non-FA multi-year contracts have the advantage of pre-purchasing important resources, but you must also take some risks, such as a decline in motivation or a gradual decline in performance due to long-term contracts. These teams considered the players to be a key resource enough to take this risk and prepared for the long-term future by extending their contracts before entering the free agency market.
Other teams also have one or two candidates for non-FA multi-year contracts. But right now, there are some teams that don’t have such a player as they deserve. KIA, which is struggling on the leaderboard after winning the championship in 2017, 안전놀이터 may be a team that shares that reality. KIA recorded a win rate of 0.471 in 720 games from 2018 to last year, and this win rate was 8th among 10 KBO league clubs during the same period. Overall, I couldn’t get out of the middle or lower ranks.
The team’s annual salary is not small, but this is largely due to the growth of external free agents such as Choi Hyeong-woo and Na Seong-beom, and internal free agents such as Yang Hyeon-jong and Kim Sun-bin. Recently, prospects have been gathered well through the draft, and the prospects show their potential, giving a feeling of relief, but it is difficult to assert that the team’s player base is strong as a whole. This is evident in last year’s ranking (5th) and winning percentage (.490).
Non-FA multi-year contracts are basically for key or non-replaceable players on teams that are close to free agency qualification events. KIA’s key players have already exercised FA qualifications or are in their early and mid-30s, so they are not covered here. It is true that players in their mid-to-late 20s, at the height of their time, did not deserve a player with the justification that the team must press down.
Lim Ki-young, Jang Hyun-sik, Han Seung-taek, and Ryu Ji-hyuk are likely to qualify as free agents after the 2024 season, but something more needs to be shown to make the multi-year contract table. Rather, the player who has been closest to discussing a multi-year contract in recent years was Park Dong-won (LG), who was recruited through a trade and transferred through free agency after half a season.
So the next three years may be even more important. Rather, there are cases in which some players who accounted for an important portion of the team’s power are still far away from free agency qualifications, so it is not time to discuss multi-year contracts. Eui-ri Lee, who is at the core of the starting lineup, and Hae-young Jeong, the closer, are typical examples. Prospects who have accumulated step by step while staying in the middle and lower ranks must also become the core of the team within 3-4 years.
The more players like this, the more players the club has to consider for multi-year contracts, the stronger the KIA means. While attention is focusing on how KIA, which is passing through the valley in team performance, will develop its future, 2023 may be the starting point in earnest.