Kia Tigers’ first base woes, could a departed franchise star be the answer?
Kia will open its wallet again in the free agent market because it needs to solve its first base problem. In the meantime, the team’s top star, Ahn Chi-hong, is eligible for free agency.
KIA spent a total of 25.3 billion won to sign Na Sung-beom and Yang Hyun-jong ahead of the 2020 season. It was a statement of intent to challenge for the title with the duo, regardless of how others assessed their strength.먹튀검증
However, last season, they reached the wild card deciding game and fell short, and this season, they fought until the end to finish sixth in the fall baseball. The season-ending strain hurt, but looking back on the entire season, it was the inability to find a starting first baseman that hurt.
First base isn’t the most important position on defense, but having a first baseman who can hit for power and make plays can make all the difference in the world. KIA lacked a center fielder, and while they tried to rely on Hwang Dae-in, who had a great first half of last season, he failed to break the mold of a perennial prospect. Byun Woo-hyuk, an ambitious trade acquisition, had good power but was too inaccurate.
The team considered Choi Won-jun, a military retiree, as a first base option, but he was better suited to the outfield, and other players such as Oh Sun-woo were called up at the end of the season.
In the end, there is only one answer for next season. If you don’t trust your existing resources such as Hwang Dae-in, you need to transfuse outside resources.
Coincidentally, Doosan Bears first baseman Yang Seok-hwan will be released as a free agent after this season. He hit more than 20 home runs for three consecutive years in a Doosan uniform. With the lack of superstar talent in the free agent market this season, Yang’s stock is expected to rise.
In theory, it’s a good idea to grab him, but it’s an inefficient investment if his price skyrockets beyond his capabilities. So, are there any other alternatives?
There is. Ahn Chi-hong. Ahn Chi-hong was a huge favorite of KIA fans after joining the team in 2009, as he was synonymous with the “hotshot” group. However, he became a free agent after the 2019 season and chose to join the shocking Lotte Giants. At the time, he had positional issues such as moving from second base to first base, which led to a falling out with KIA. The chill in the free agent market at the time also made him hesitate.
Four years have passed since then. Ahn Chi-hong, a free agent again, hasn’t been able to defy the passage of time. The 23-homer hitter from the 2018 season has only hit eight home runs this year. Ahn’s defensive radius at second base is getting tighter.
That doesn’t mean his value has decreased. There are plenty of teams on the market that are attracted to the first baseman. While his home runs have plummeted, his ability to drive in runs when it matters is still there. Ahn is also entering his mid-30s and is not in a position to stick to second base. With so much experience at second base, he can also defend first base at a high level.
Ahn could be a good solution for KIA. Compared to Yang Seok-hwan, he’s likely to be priced appropriately. The box office potential of a returning franchise star is a bonus.