Former major league outfielder Kim Hyun-soo was formally introduced by his new South Korean club on Thursday, two days after signing one of the largest free agent contracts in the history of professional baseball here.
Kim donned the pinstriped jersey of the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization at his introductory press conference in Seoul. On Tuesday, the Twins, based in the nation's capital, announced their signing of the 29-year-old to a four-year deal worth 11.5 billion won ($10.7 million).
It's the second most lucrative contract ever signed by a free agent in the KBO's 35-year history, behind only the four-year, 15 billion won deal that the Lotte Giants handed to Lee Dae-ho, former Seattle Mariners first baseman, in January.
|Kim Hyun-soo of the LG Twins (R) and the club president Shin Moon-bum hold up Kim`s new No. 22 jersey during his introductory press conference in Seoul on Dec. 21, 2017. (Yonhap)|
Kim played the past two seasons in Major League Baseball, split with the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies.
In Kim, the Twins are getting one of the KBO's best contact hitters who has also shown some pop. Before moving to the U.S., Kim spent 10 seasons in the KBO -- all with the Doosan Bears, who share Seoul's Jamsil Stadium with the Twins -- and he had a .318 lifetime batting average, at the time the second-highest mark among active players with at least 3,000 plate appearances.
Dubbed "Hitting Machine," Kim won the batting title at age 20 in 2008, while also leading the league in hits, doubles and walks.
In 1,131 games, Kim had a career on-base percentage of .406, with 597 walks against 501 strikeouts.
Kim put up outstanding numbers in his most recent KBO season in 2015, with career-highs of 28 home runs, 121 RBIs, 103 runs scored and 101 walks.
He did that while playing his home games at Jamsil Stadium, the KBO's largest ballpark with 125 meters from home plate to center and 100 meters down both lines. The Twins brass is hoping Kim will duplicate his success in the familiar confines in a new uniform.
"This wasn't an easy decision to make, and I'd like to thank the LG Twins for this opportunity," Kim said. "I don't even know if I deserve this much money. I know I have to try hard and become an even better player than I've been so far."
The press conference took a strange turn as Kim became emotional talking about his old team, the Bears.
"I wish I'd done more in the U.S., and I'd like to thanks Doosan fans for supporting me all these years," said Kim, his voice breaking. "I also want to thank the Bears organization for making me the player that I am today."
Kim's two-year major league stint was largely unremarkable.
He overcame a slow start in his rookie year with the Orioles to end up with a .302 batting average and a .382 on-base percentage in 95 games.
In 2017, though, Kim was an odd-man out in the crowded Orioles outfield and was traded to a rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies club in July, after batting just .232 with a home run and 10 RBIs in 56 games in Baltimore.
Kim was mostly limited to a bench role with the Phillies, and hit .230 in 40 games with the new club.
Once his two-year deal expired, no MLB team came calling for the service of a soon-to-be 30-year-old outfielder with limited upside.
The Twins then swooped in and brought Kim back to his hometown.
"I don't know if I'll ever be able to live up to this contract just with performance," Kim said. "I think I'll have to be a role model and an exemplary figure in every aspect of the game." (Yonhap)