If Go Woo-seok leaves with a real major league contract, the team is not guaranteed to win the title for the second year in a row. But now, free agent Ham Deok-ju, a replacement closer, has been subjected to a background check by Major League Baseball, meaning that LG could have two major leaguers.
The KBO announced on the 30th that it received a request from the MLB office to check the identity of Ham Deok-ju. It added that it was informed that “the player is a free agent and can sign a contract with any club, including overseas clubs.
In 57 games this season, Ham went 4-4 with 16 saves and a 1.62 ERA. He left the pennant race early due to elbow pain, but pitched in the Korean Series and helped LG win its first V3 in 29 years.
Ham Deok-ju became a free agent after the season. If he moves to another team in Class B, LG will receive compensation of either 100 million won ($75,000) for this year’s salary plus one compensatory player outside of the 25 protected players, or 200 million won, double this year’s salary without a compensatory player.
LG was unable to negotiate with its internal free agents, including Lim Chan-gyu, Ham Deok-joo, and Kim Min-sung, because of the 28-day group report. The company has pushed back the negotiations to the 28th. We have also agreed to meet with Ham Deok-ju’s agent soon.
However, the Major League Baseball conducted a background check on Ham Deok-ju, creating a situation in which he could enter the major leagues. LG is currently in a difficult situation due to the salary cap, but it is planning to catch all internal free agents as best it can.
The fact that Go Woo-seok is trying to make it to the major leagues as a poster will be a big challenge for LG to win back-to-back titles. If Go Woo-seok is able to negotiate a good deal with a major league team, LG will allow him to do so.
As a national team closer, Go Woo-seok is the guardian of LG’s back door. While he’s been out with injuries and struggled this season, he’s been the difference between a team with and without him. Other candidates for the closer’s job include Ham Deok-ju, who has experience in the role, Yoo Young-chan, who pitched impressively in the Korean Series, and Jung Woo-young, who won the hold award last year. Ham Deok-ju showed his stability as a closer when Go Woo-seok went down with an injury.
If Go Woo-seok makes it to the major leagues and Ham Deok-ju makes it to the major leagues, LG’s strongest bullpen could be shaken up.
The surprises continue to come this winter for LG, who will enter the 2023 season with a trophy after 29 years. It’s a good thing for Colney, but it’s a head-scratcher for LG.