Free Agent Im Chan-gyu Signing…’Master Negotiator’ Cha Myung-seok, ‘Korean Boras’ Super Agent, Who’s Laughing?

December 4, 2023 | by

The free agency period has come to a close after a series of big-name signings. Pitcher Im Chan-kyu, one of the biggest names in the free agent market, is the center of attention. LG CEO Cha Myung-seok and Im’s agent, Lee Yerang of Ricoh Sports, are battling it out.

Cha has said that LG will hold onto all of its free agents, including Im, as well as Ham Deok-ju and Kim Min-sung. These are all resources that LG, which hasn’t won a Korean Series title in 29 years, will need to build a “dynasty” that can continue to contend for titles in the future.

Im was eligible for free agency after the 2022 season but did not exercise his option. Last year, Lim struggled, going 6-11 with a 5.04 ERA in 23 games. He opted for free agency.

This year, Im started the season in a long-relief role behind younger starters, but when Kim Yun-sik, Lee Min-ho, and Kang Hyo-jong, who were projected as the third through fifth starters, all struggled early in the season and were injured, Im was thrust into the starting rotation.

Lim has been the starter since mid-April, posting a 14-3 record with a 3.42 ERA in 30 games (26 starts). It was a career-high season for the pitcher, as he recorded the most wins among Korean pitchers this season. It was a successful free agent signing. Next year, LG needs Im to stay, so they can form a 3-5 starters with Choi Won-tae and Kim Yun-sik.

Most of the big free agent signings in recent years have been made by Ricoh Sports. Lee Yerang has been the agent for many Class A free agents every winter, securing some of the biggest contracts. He’s been called the Korean version of Boras.

Last winter, he was the agent for the biggest free agent, Yang Ji-soo. Ahead of the 2019 season, he signed Yang-ji to a four-year, 12.5 billion won contract with the NC and then re-signed him to a 4+2-year, up to 15.2 billion won deal with Doosan. For the first four years, the contract is worth 11 billion won (4.4 billion won in signing bonus and 6.6 billion won in total annual salary), with a player option for two more years worth up to 4.2 billion won, including incentives.

In this free agency market, Lee secured the free agent contracts of Yang Seok-hwan (Doosan), Ahn Chi-hong (Lotte to Hanwha), and Kim Jae-yoon (KT to Samsung). The three free agent contracts totaled 20.8 billion won.

Ahn Chi-hong left Lotte and signed with Hanwha for a 4+2-year total of 7.2 billion won (4 years guaranteed, 4.7 billion won in options, 800 million won in mutual options, 2 years guaranteed, 1.3 billion won in options). Kim Jae-yoon, who recorded 30 saves for the third consecutive year, left KT to sign with Samsung for a four-year total of 5.8 billion won (2 billion won down payment, 2.8 billion won total salary, 1 billion won total incentives).

Yang Seok-hwan signed a 4+2-year, up to 7.8 billion won contract with his former team Doosan on March 30. The first four-year contract is worth up to 6.5 billion won (2 billion won in down payment, 3.9 billion won in total annual salary, and 600 million won in incentives), followed by a two-year, 1.3 billion won mutual option that will be triggered at the end of the four-year contract upon agreement between the club and player 아톰카지노 주소.

Cha Myung-seok is also a master negotiator. Last winter, he was unable to retain both free agents Yoo Kang-nam and Chae Eun-sung because of salary cap space. Both players had skyrocketed in price, especially Yoo Kang-nam, the starting catcher, who signed a four-year, 8 billion won free agent contract with Lotte.

Cha minimized the gap in the outfield by signing free agent catcher Park Dong-won for four years and 6.5 billion won. Park, who signed for less money than Yoo Kang-nam, contributed significantly to LG’s Korean Series victory this year. In 2022, the team signed national team center fielder Park Hae-min as a free agent for four years and 6 billion won. He solidified the table-setters and outfield defense.

Cha signed Oh Ji-hwan for four years and 4 billion won ahead of the 2020 season. At the time, there were rumors that Oh wanted a six-year contract, which led to difficult negotiations, and eventually Oh was given a “blank check” by LG. General manager Cha Myung-seok managed to get Oh’s signature for four years and 4 billion won. He was able to secure a number of reasonable contracts without overpaying for the players LG needed.

Meanwhile, Lee Yerang is attending the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings (April 4-7) as Ko Woo-seok’s Korean agent in order to post him to the major leagues. Im Chan-kyu’s negotiations are expected to be a long one. “We need to keep meeting and shorten the gap,” Cha Myung-seok said after their first meeting on March 30.


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