Do the Kia Tigers really need to buy an outside free agent first baseman?
The Tigers have begun their final training camp in Okinawa. Aside from the players, the front office is also in full swing with preparations for the 2024 season. Immediately after the end of the season, the Tigers reshuffled their coaching staff, releasing nine players on the second day to make way for a new future.
The biggest concern for fans is free agency. In the upcoming 2023-2024 market, unlike the past one or two years, there are not many high-end properties. However, there are a few first basemen, such as Yang Seok-hwan (Doosan) and Ahn Chi-hong (Lotte), who are categorized as the biggest names.
And yes, KIA’s first base is vulnerable. Several players have tried on the first base mitt this season, but none have stuck. Hwang Dae-in, 27, a 2022 prospect, has struggled in 60 games, hitting .213 with five home runs, 26 RBI, 19 runs scored and a .618 OPS. Byun Woo-hyuk (23), who was acquired from the Hanwha Eagles in an offseason trade a year ago, hit .225 with seven home runs, 24 RBIs, 23 runs scored and a 0.664 OPS in 83 games.
Oh Seon-woo also played first base at the end of the season. None of these players performed well enough to be a full-time starter. Hwang Dae-in and Byun Woo-hyuk had nagging injuries, some fans and outsiders wondered if KIA should consider an outside free agent first baseman.
Even Shim Jae-hak admitted that first base is a vulnerable position when reviewing the year at the end of the season. However, at this point, KIA is not in a position to go all-in on an outside free agent. The most important players are Choi Hyung-woo (40), a non-free agent with a multi-year contract, and internal free agents Kim Sun-bin and Ko Jong-wook.
Neither can be missed. Choi is still the best clutch hitter in the KBO. When Kim was out this season, it was clear that there was a gap in the offense. Go Jong-wook is the best licorice in the KIA batting order and the best shift hitter. Their retention was the top priority of the offseason.
Despite the crucial weakness at first base, KIA’s offense ranked second in all metrics this season behind LG’s, and with the addition of internal free agents, they could have a powerhouse lineup next year like they had this season. Several commentators who watched KIA’s complete lineup this season said that “the best lineup is the best in the league”.
Realistically, the most important thing for KIA to do to bounce back from the disappointment of being eliminated from the top five is to recruit foreign pitching. If they retain their internal free agents and improve their foreign pitching staff, which has only won 16 games in total this year, they will be able to compete for the Grand Prix right away.
That’s why I’m looking forward to the final training camp in Okinawa. Hwang Dae-in is out with a nagging injury, and Byun Woo-hyuk and Oh Sun-woo are training. It’s important to somehow utilize Hwang Dae-in and Byun Woo-hyuk to create a built-in, full-time first baseman. With Kim Seok-hwan choosing to focus on the outfield, Hwang Dae-in or Byun Woo-hyuk will have to take care of KIA’s first base. That’s for the best. 보스토토 주소
There is a lot of curiosity about Byun Woo-hyuk, especially in terms of potential. He’s only had 226 at-bats this season. That’s a far cry from Socrates Brito, who had the most at-bats for KIA this year with 608. If he stays healthy and plays full-time, we’ll see how he performs. He has a good batting stance and good reactions, but he has his ups and downs.