Veteran catcher Lee Jae-won, who has played for only one team for nearly 20 years since joining the team in 2006, will face the 2024 season with the Hanwha Eagles.
Hanwha said on the 28th, “We signed a contract with Lee Jae-won for 50 million won a year. We have secured backup catcher resources by recruiting Lee Jae-won, who has extensive experience including winning the Korean Series.”
Lee Jae-won, who graduated from Incheon Sungui Elementary School, Sangcheon Middle School, and Incheon High School and joined the club as the first candidate of SK (currently SSG), drew attention due to his extraordinary batting ability when he was a high school student. On top of that, Lee was evaluated for his potential as a catcher, including defense capability and teamwork with pitchers.
Lee Jae-won, who has not been able to blossom his talent for a while, showed his presence by recording 134 hits in 407 at-bats in 130 games in 2018 with a batting average of 0.329 17 home runs and 57 RBIs after achieving double-digit home runs for three consecutive years between 2014 and 2016. In the Korean Series that year, he also contributed greatly to the team’s rise to the top of the Korean Series for the first time in eight years, including 6 hits in 25 at-bats with a batting average of 0.240 one home run and two RBIs.헤라카지노
At the same time, Lee Jae-won signed a four-year total of 6.9 billion won (down payment of 2.1 billion won, annual salary of 4.8 billion won) with SK after the end of the 2018 season. At the time, the club praised Lee Jae-won’s contribution, saying, “As a native of Incheon, I highly appreciate his affection for Incheon and his constant love from fans and his contribution to winning the Korean Series.”
In 2019, the first year of his contract, Lee Jae-won had a respectable record of 121 hits in 139 games at-bats for 451 hits in a batting average of 0.268 with 12 homers and 75 RBIs. The problem was after that. He suffered from a slump with 41 hits in 80 games at-bats for 222 games in 2020 for a batting average of 0.185 two homers and 21 RBIs in an OPS of 0.514. In 2021, he seemed to have succeeded in rebounding from 76 hits in 271 at-bats for 107 games with a batting average of 0.280 with three homers and 30 RBIs in 27 games, but failed to turn the tables last year with a batting average of 47 at-bats for 234 games with a batting average of 0.201 with four homers and 28 RBIs, and a batting average of 0.091 with four hits in 44 at-bats for 27 games this year.
Naturally, the main catcher was Kim Min-sik, and SSG, which had to take care of the growth of young catchers including Cho Hyung-woo, could not wait for Lee Jae-won. Eventually, Lee Jae-won asked SSG to release him after the end of this season, and the club accepted the player’s will.
Lee Jae-won, who has not signed his seal for more than a month since the team’s official announcement on April 24, has joined hands with Hanwha. Hanwha also wanted a veteran catcher who is experienced due to team circumstances, although it is making efforts to foster young players.
Hanwha General Manager Son Hyuk said, “We lacked experienced catchers other than Choi Jae-hoon and Park Sang-eon. We recruited Lee Jae-won as we judged that there was sufficient need (for Lee Jae-won) to prepare for injury and strengthen the player base,” adding, “We expect Lee Jae-won to add weight to the catchers until promising player Heo In-seo returns from the Sangmu Baseball Team in the second half of the 2024 season.”
In particular, there are quite a few people in Hanwha who have been involved with Lee Jae-won since the days of SK.
First of all, expectations are high that Kim Kang-min, who suddenly moved to the second draft last month, will be a big help to Lee Jae-won. Both players started the new season in a slightly unfamiliar place, but as veterans, they have the same desire to help the team. Young players who had been around can also see them and create opportunities to grow further.
Jung Woo-ram, who is about to transform into a playing coach, will meet Lee Jae-won in one team for the first time in nine seasons. Jung, who played for SK from 2004 to 2015, had batteries with Park Kyung-wan and Jung Sang-ho for a long time, but also worked with Lee Jae-won, who became the starting catcher in 2015.
In addition, Lee Myung-ki and Lee Tae-yang are also players who have lived with Lee Jae-won in SSG, and are expected to help Lee Jae-won adapt to the new team. In addition, there are not only players such as Son Hyuk, Son Cha-hoon, the coordinator for strengthening power, and Jeong Kyung-bae, but also many people who have been watching Lee Jae-won in SSG as a leader and front desk.
Lee Jae-won’s annual salary has decreased significantly from 1 billion won last year to 100 million won this year and 50 million won next year. As such, he is determined to rebound after putting everything down. Can Lee Jae-won, who has to prove his competitiveness among young catchers, meet the team’s expectations with his strong helpers.