The South Korean baseball club Lotte Giants signed All-Star outfielder Min Byung-hun via free agency Tuesday.
The Korea Baseball Organization team added one of the biggest prizes in the open market with a four-year deal worth 8 billion won ($7.3 million).
The 30-year-old played his first 11 seasons with the Doosan Bears. He is a career .299 hitter in 1,096 games and has batted at least .300 in each of the past five seasons.
In 2017, Min batted .304/.389/.445 with 14 home runs, 71 RBIs and 21 doubles. Min mostly played in right field for the Bears in 2017, but he can also play in center.
In this photo provided by the Lotte Giants baseball club, outfielder Min Byung-hun poses in the Giants uniform after signing a four-year, 8 billion-won (US$7.3 million) free agent contract with the Korea Baseball Organization club on Nov. 28, 2017. (Yonhap)
"I'd like to play well for the Giants ball club, which has recognized my value," Min said in a statement released by his new team. "I promise I will be the hardest-working player on this ball club."
Later in a phone interview with Yonhap News Agency, Min said his biggest goal was to help the Giants win a Korean Series championship. The Busan-based club is mired in a 25-year title drought, the longest in the league.
"I understand Lotte signed me to try to win a championship," Min said. "I'll do my best to address whatever shortcomings this team may have had, and I'd love to help the team to a title during
my time here."
Min's signing gives the Giants one of the best-hitting outfields in the KBO. The club recently re-signed free agent right fielder Son A-seop to a four-year, 8.8 billion-won contract. Son is the reigning hits leader in the KBO and a career .325 hitter coming off his first 20-20 season. Veteran Jeon Jun-woo, who set career highs with a .321 batting average and 69 RBIs in 2017, will return as the starting center fielder.
Min will likely be asked to move to left field, but he should be able to make a relatively seamless transition given his defensive skills.
With his speed, on-base skills and gap power, Min is able to bat either in the leadoff spot or in the middle of the lineup. Min said the Giants had kept close tabs on him and made him feel wanted, adding that he was curious to find out how much better he could play in a different uniform.
"I've done well at Sajik Stadium and I knew this team needed some offense," he said, referring to the Giants' home turf and the loss of hard-hitting catcher Kang Min-ho in free agency earlier this month. "And as a professional athlete, I know I am supposed to put in my best efforts to live up to fans' expectations."
Over the past five seasons, Min batted .374 (49-for-131) at Sajik Stadium with seven homers and 34 RBIs in 34 games. (Yonhap)