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Slugger Kim Moving to Japanese Pro League

Posted November. 14, 2009 18:43,   


To Hanwha Eagles slugger Kim Tae-kyun, first baseman Lee Seung-yeop, who plays the same position as Kim, is a barrier he has wanted to conquer.

Kim hit 20 homers in 88 games in his debut year for Hanwha in 2001 to win Rookie of the Year. Since then, he has earned the nickname “post Lee Seung-yeop.”

Kim, 27, had striven to better Lee year after year. In 2003, he hit .319 with 31 homers. Lee, however, set a new Asian record with 56 homers that year and joined Chiba Lotte of Japan.

Kim won his first Golden Glove for first baseman only in 2005, five years after he joined the Eagles. “It would have been greater if I received the prize when Seung-yeop was (in Korea),” he said.

Now, Kim is set to join Lee in Japan. Kim is the biggest name among free agents in Korea, and signed a contract with Lotte of Japan yesterday. Lotte Marines President Ryuzo Setoyama, who had recruited Lee, said in a news conference in Seoul yesterday that his team and Lee signed a three-year contract with a signing bonus of 100 million yen (1.07 million U.S. dollars) and annual salary of 150 million yen (1.66 million dollars).

When considering the annual pay, Kim will be the highest earner among the 11 Korean baseballers playing in Japan. His contract period is also the longest. Including options and bonuses, he could earn more than 700 million yen (7.75 million dollars) over the three year deal.

Lee got 500 million yen (or 5.54 million dollars, including 100 million yen (1.11 million dollars) as a signing bonus and 200 million (2.22 million dollars) in annual salary over two years when he signed with Lotte in late 2003.

Kim said, “Lotte and Lakuten expressed interest (in me). The two teams offered similar amounts, but Lakuten suggested more options. In the end, I chose Lotte because Seung-yeop plays there and it knows Korean players very well.”

Just like Lee, Kim is expected to play first baseman and clean-up hitter. Setoyama said, “Kim Tae-kyun has strong power, techniques and good defense skills. We are very pleased to sign him, who is like the jewel of Korean baseball.”

Lotte manager Norifumi Nishimura also said, “Bringing in a right-handed slugger was the biggest concern in reinforcing our team’s capacity. I feel excited.”

Kim, who declined to re-sign with Hanwha despite the team offering its highest contract of 5.2 million dollars over a four-year period, said, “I’m sorry to my fans and the club since I’m about to leave when the team has performed poorly, but advancing into Japan has been my long-cherished dream,” adding, “I want to play full time without injury and acquire good records.”

Over his career, Kim has hit .310, 188 homers, and 701 RBIs over the past nine years. When he played cleanup hitter in the World Baseball Classic in March, he hit .345, three homers, and 11 RBIs, drawing attention from American baseball scouts.