Hanwha Eagles recruited veteran catcher Lee Jae-won (35) on April 28. His annual salary is 50 million won (approx.
Until two years ago, Lee Jae-won was a high-paid catcher in the KBO League. He signed a four-year, 6.9 billion won (full coverage) free agent contract with the SK Wyverns (the predecessor of the SSG Landers) in 2019. In 2019, the first year of his contract, Lee had a batting average of 0.268 with 12 home runs, which was above average. For the next three years, he had a batting average of 0.226 and an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 0.610.헤라카지노
Lee Jae-won, who reacquired his FA qualification after the 2022 season, cut his annual salary to 100 million won and chose to stay at the SSG instead of exercising his rights. However, his performance has fallen even further. His batting average fell to 0.091 last year, and his stolen base blocking rate was only 0.154. His position continued to narrow down, and he eventually found a new nest by asking players to release themselves.
Hanwha recruited Lee Jae-won not to use him as its main catcher. After recruiting, Hanwha explained, “We secured Lee Jae-won, who has a lot of experience, including winning the Korean Series, as a backup catcher to support Choi Jae-hoon and Park Sang-eon.” Choi Jae-hoon, who has been wearing a mask since 2017, is under contract with Hanwha until 2026.
However, Lee Jae-won can lessen Choi’s burden. Choi Jae-hoon pitched 884 1/3 innings (ranking third in the league) last year. Backup catcher Park Sang-eon (388 1/3 innings) failed to significantly reduce his senior’s burden. It is not easy for Park Sang-eon, who recorded one homerun with the batting average of 0.200 in the 2023 season, to suddenly increase in proportion.
Though his skills are lagging behind younger teammates, Lee Jae-won has experience that is lacking in Hanwha. “The team lacks experienced catchers other than Choi Jae-hoon and Park Sang-eon. We judged that we need to prepare for injury and strengthen our depth,” said Son Hyuk, Hanwha’s general manager. In a broad sense, the team is part of its “veteran collection,” which has continued from Chae Eun-sung last year to Ahn Chi-hong and Kim Kang-min this year.
He still has strength as a catcher. When he was in the SSG, Lee received favorable comments from pitchers. Noh said, “Jae-won always studies a lot. He also puts effort into analyzing players’ power. He gave a good lead depending on the batter’s disposition, enabling him to overcome the crisis.” Font, who recorded a perfect game in nine innings at the 2022 opening game, also said, “Lee Jae-won was a good player with the ball, so I never signed a no-no deal. Thank you.” Font also praised Lee, saying, “It is important to trust the catcher 100 percent. I think Lee Jae-won is one of the best catchers in Korea.” Hanwha expects Lee Jae-won to play the role of a veteran at Hanwha, which has many young pitchers.