The NC Dinos caught Lee Jae-hak (32), the protagonist of the club’s most wins (76 wins), as a free agent. However, to be honest, what is more important is the health of new ace Chang-mo Koo (25) and the recruitment of a new foreign ace to replace the absolute foreign ace Drew Luchinski (33).
On the 15th, NC announced that it had signed a contract with pitcher Lee Jae-hak (32), a free agent (FA), for a contract period of 2+1 years and a maximum of 900 million won. The details are 550 million won for 2 years of guarantee and 350 million won for total options including contract execution for the 3rd year.
Lee Jae-hak, who joined the Doosan Bears with the 10th overall pick in the 2nd round in 2010, is a founding member who joined NC in the 2011 KBO 2nd draft. As a member of NC, he left a big footprint, including his team’s first win, first complete game, first complete shutout, first rookie king, and first 10 wins in domestic selection. In the 2013-2016 season, he recorded double-digit wins for four consecutive years, and until this year, he won a total of 76 wins under NC, continuing the club’s record for the most individual wins.
Despite this symbolism and status, it is difficult to see Lee Jae-hak as the main pillar of the mound in the current 1st team, to be honest. This year, Lee Jae-hak also recorded an average ERA of 4.75 with 3 wins and 8 losses in 26 games, going back and forth between selection and relief.
Lee Jae-hak has been in a position where he can’t be trusted for three consecutive years since he played an active role with an average ERA of 10-4 and 3.75 in 24 games in 2019, moving between various positions. That’s why despite being a symbolic pitcher in NC, there was a big difference in terms of conditions, so the contract agreement was prolonged.
Although he has signed an FA contract, right now and next year, Lee Jae-hak’s position can only be obtained through competition. It is said that Lee Jae-hak has the advantage of being a sidearm pitcher and has a lot of experience, but at present, it cannot be a constant like a support for the NC mound, which is expected to have a big gap. Expectations are close to the variable that expects a revival.
That’s why NC’s Stove League situation is still in the fog. Above all, there is a strong possibility of saying goodbye to Luchinski, who has been an irreplaceable ace of the NC mound for the past four years. After the season, local media in the US picked Luczynski as a noteworthy free agent, and some media saw that a multi-year contract of 2 years, 9 to 10 million dollars, or more is possible. Luchinski also has a strong intention to return to the major leagues.
NC has already communicated its intention to renew the contract with Luchinski. However, if Luchinski chooses to go to the major leagues, he judges that negotiations through conditions are meaningless, and is looking for candidates to fill the vacancy of Luchinski along with a replacement for Matt Dermody, an existing foreigner who decided not to renew the contract.
And one spot is expected to come to fruition. According to an official familiar with the transfer situation of foreign players, NC is currently finalizing the details of the contract with a pitcher who has been active as a starting pitcher in the major leagues.
The problem is if Luchinski eventually chooses to go to the major leagues. At least one of the new foreign pitchers should be a reliable card that can replace Luczynski, who pitched in as many as 121 games over four years and posted a record of 53-36 with a 3.06 ERA. The problem is that, excluding pitchers currently approaching contracts with NC, there are not many high-quality pitchers who can come to Korea among the remaining pitchers in the free agent market in the United States. Or, the terms of the contract do not match.
Following Lee Jae-hak, the health of new ace Koo Chang-mo, who has now established himself as a pitcher representing NC’s native mound, is also an important point.
In the first half of the 2020 season, Koo Chang-mo, who had a sensational performance of 9 wins, an undefeated ERA of 1.55, suffered inflammation and a stress fracture in his left arm that year, and almost missed the second half. The following year, he also underwent surgery for a stress fracture on the left ulnar bone and devoted himself to rehabilitation throughout 2021, and at the beginning of this year he could not join the opening match due to a hamstring injury.
Then, after returning to the regular season after 575 days against Doosan in Changwon on May 28, he continued his overwhelming performance and played an active role as NC’s native ace. In the end, Koo Chang-mo played a big role this season, recording an average ERA of 2.10 with 11 wins (5 losses), the most in a single season. 스포츠토토
There are no longer those who doubt the performance of ‘healthy’ Koo Chang-mo. However, in that he has not yet played a full-time season after his injury, in some ways, the most important key to operating the NC mound next year can be ‘can Chang-mo Gu be able to play full-time’.
Koo Chang-mo, who swept the ‘Revival Award’ at various awards ceremonies this year, said at the ‘2022 Joa Pharmaceutical Professional Baseball Grand Prize’ ceremony on the 1st, “I once again thought that it was cool while watching the Korean series this season. He also expressed his strong determination, saying, “I will become a player who can go and win the Korean Series next season.”
As Koo Chang-mo said, in order for NC to bring back the KS championship cup, Koo Chang-mo’s performance leading up to the Korean Series is essential.
NC’s Stove League, which still leaves many questions, and what kind of ending will be next year’s mound. Important tasks are still piled up.