SSG signing ‘championship + national team catcher’

Lee Ji-young, Kim Min-sik re-signing tide changes…Kim Jae-hyun, “It’s true that things have changed”

The SSG Landers have solved a major problem with the acquisition of Lee Ji-young (38).

“SSG has acquired catcher Lee Ji-young in a trade with Kiwoom for KRW 250 million in cash and a 2025 third-round rookie pick,” the organization announced on Wednesday. Lee joins SSG via trade after signing a two-year, 400 million won contract with Kiwoom.

Lee is a veteran catcher with a career batting average of .268 (3368-for-942), 16 home runs, 368 RBIs, and a .654 OPS in 1270 KBO games. He made his first-team debut with Samsung in 2009 and won three Korean Series titles (2012 and 2013). Since 2019, Lee has played for Kiwoom, representing South Korea in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) last March, and in the league, he batted 2-for-4 with a .586 OPS in 81 games (217-for-54) with eight RBIs.

Lee Ji-young, who became a free agent after the end of the season, was a Class B free agent, meaning that teams other than her original team Kiwoom had to pay Kiwoom FA compensation (100% of her salary) and one FA compensation player in addition to 25 protected players when signing her. This made it difficult for Lee to find a new team. However, after Kiwoom and SSG agreed to a sign-and-trade, Lee Ji-young was able to make a fresh start with a new team.

SSG head coach Kim Jae-hyun said, “We changed our coaching staff, and the re-contract negotiations with Kim Min-sik didn’t go well. We knew that Lee Ji-young wanted to join our team, so we actively negotiated with her, and I think we got a good result.”

SSG gave up a third-round rookie pick to acquire Lee Ji-young. “We gave up a rookie, but we got the resources we needed. I think it was worth it,” said Kim Jae-hyun, who welcomed Lee Ji-young to the team.

SSG was led by Kim Min-sik last year. In 821 career KBO games, Kim batted .227 (1875-for-426) with 24 home runs, 214 RBIs, and a .622 OPS. The veteran catcher, who won two Korean Series titles with KIA in 2017 and SSG in 2022, is on the market as a Class C free agent after last season.

SSG, which had offered Kim a multi-year, non-free agent contract in 2022, decided to re-sign Kim by default this winter. Kim struggled a bit last year, batting just 2-for-8 (58-for-266) with five home runs, 34 RBIs, and a .618 OPS in 122 games, but he still has value as a starting catcher.

SSG hasn’t changed its stance on re-signing Kim Min-sik. However, with Lee Ji-young joining the team, their approach to the contract negotiations has changed. General manager Kim Jae-hyun said, “We will continue to have contact with Kim Min-sik. He has contributed a lot to the team. The more catcher resources we have, the better,” he said, adding, “There has been a financial difference between the two sides. It is true that the situation is different now than before. We’ll have to see what happens in the future,” he said, explaining the changing tides.

Kim Jae-hyun, who said, “I feel like we’ve put together a piece of the puzzle and filled in some of the gaps,” added, “If Kim Min-sik hadn’t been re-signed and Lee Ji-young hadn’t been signed and traded, we would have had to start with a lot of anxiety. I think we’ve gotten rid of some of the anxiety,” and looked forward to a good start this season.

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