No Kim Hyun-soo, no Na Sung-beom, no Yang Ji-soo. There is no S-class in the 2023-2024 free agent market.
The KBO announced 34 players for the 2023-2024 free agency on Friday. There are 12 new players, 8 re-qualified, and 14 retained. By classification, there are eight A players, 14 B players, and 12 C players. Of the 34 players, there will be some who will opt out of free agency. Some are already locked into non-free agent multi-year contracts, while others have announced their retirement.
2023-2024 Free Agents (Non-FA multi-year contract + FA 6-year contract max, excluding retired Jang Won-jun)
The biggest free agents are Yang Seok-hwan (Grade A) and Ahn Chi-hong (Grade B). Among pitchers, Im Chan-gyu, Ham Deok-joo, and Kim Jae-yoon are likely to be in the spotlight. However, it’s hard to see them as game-changers, or S-grade free agents, who can change a team’s performance in an instant.
There is, of course, no definition of an S-level free agent. Generally speaking, it’s a player who can hit 30 home runs and 100 RBIs and change the culture and atmosphere of a team’s clubhouse. The LG Twins gave Kim Hyun-soo a two-year, $11.5 billion free agent contract because they recognized his value as a dugout leader, despite his consistent performance. In the end, LG won its first pennant in 29 years during the Kim era.굿모닝토토 주소
Na and Yang are also hitters who are capable of triples, two to three home runs, and around 100 RBIs at any given time. They have also been a positive influence on the team. For example, Na emphasizes weight training and game preparation routines. The KIA Tigers’ juniors have become natural. Kim Do-young and Choi Won-jun have gotten stronger with Na’s tips.
In addition, Yang-ji is a perfect catcher in both offense and defense. Their synergy is so strong that we don’t even need to calculate their off-field effects. According to Baseball-Reference, Yang is 11th in career WAR (65.72) and Kim is 12th (65.61).
Crucially, S-level free agents are committed to their teams’ postseason aspirations by default. KIA made the postseason as soon as Na Sung-bum joined the team, but slipped to sixth place this season when he was limited to 58 games due to various injuries. Yang also led Doosan to the postseason upon his return. Kim Hyun-soo’s LG has always been a guaranteed postseason team.
However, the 2023-2024 free agents listed above are unlikely to be able to fill the S role. This means that we probably won’t see a big free agent signing like Na Sung-beom’s move to KIA two years ago or Yang Yang-ji’s move to NC a year ago.
However, there is also the prospect that there could be quite a few player moves in the FA market. With no compensatory players and a 150% salary match, C-level free agents are relatively easy to move. There has certainly been a lot of movement in the free agency market in recent years. There will be a shift in power, a shift in terrain, and it remains to be seen if a team will emerge that can threaten LG.
Chairman Koo Kwang-mo and manager Cha Myung-seok attend the game between the LG Twins and KT Wiz during the Korean Series Game 5 of the ‘2023 KBO Baseball Postseason’ at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, on November 13, 2023.
With teams like the KT Wiz, NC Dinos, and Doosan Bears making the postseason this year, as well as the Kia Tigers, who missed the postseason but have a decent lineup, there are plenty of teams that could compete with LG in the free agent market. LG could also lose players in free agency. It remains to be seen how much the game will be shaken up in the free agency market without the S-class.