Former All-Star outfielder Lee Yong-kyu has taken the biggest year-to-year pay cut in South Korean professional baseball history.
The Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization said Wednesday Lee has agreed to a 400 million won ($368,000) deal for the 2018 season.
The 32-year-old earned 900 million won in 2017, the final season of his four-year contract. The 500 million won pay cut is the largest in the KBO's 35-year history, surpassing a 450 million won reduction that former LG Twins pitcher Park Myung-hwan accepted when re-signing with the team in 2011.
In this file photo taken on Aug. 1, 2017, Lee Yong-kyu of the Hanwha Eagles lays down a bunt single against the NC Dinos during the teams` Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Masan Stadium in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. (Yonhap)
Lee was eligible for free agency this offseason, but elected to wait another season to exercise his right. Players who aren't free agents in the KBO can only sign one-year deals to stay with their original clubs.
Lee, a national team fixture as a speedy outfielder who can put the ball in play, was limited to 57 out of the Eagles' 144 games in 2017. He played for South Korea at the World Baseball Classic in March while battling elbow pain, and missed 20 days at the start of the KBO season.
He joined the Eagles on April 20, but suffered a broken right wrist during a game on May 2. He didn't return to action until July 8.
Lee, a lifetime .303 hitter, batted just .263, his lowest mark since 2009. Lee had a career-high .438 on-base percentage in 2016, but the mark plummeted to .332 in 2017.
Lee chose not to test the open market this winter, believing he wouldn't generate much interest, and didn't have leverage against the Eagles, either.
"The 2018 season will be an important one for me personally and for the team," Lee said. "I signed the deal quickly so that I could just concentrate on baseball. I'll try to be a helpful member of the team next year." (Yonhap)