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Ex-MLB pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong rejoins Kia Tigers on 4-year deal

Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers poses in the team jacket after signing a four-year contract on Friday, in this photo provided by the Tigers. (The Tigers)
Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers poses in the team jacket after signing a four-year contract on Friday, in this photo provided by the Tigers. (The Tigers)
After a forgettable one-season stint in the majors, South Korean left-hander Yang Hyeon-jong is back with the Kia Tigers.

The Tigers announced on Friday they have brought back their franchise icon on a four-year contract worth up to 10.3 billion won ($8.7 million). The 33-year-old pitcher will earn 2.5 billion won in total salary, 3 billion won in signing bonus, and a maximum 4.8 billion won in incentives.

Yang spent the first 14 seasons of his Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) career with the Tigers, before signing a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers in February this year.

He bounced between the big leagues and the minors, failing to record a victory on either side while posting an identical 5.60 ERA at both levels.

Yang became a free agent after the season and decided to return to the KBO. The Tigers announced in mid-October, well before the KBO season ended, that Yang had expressed interest in a reunion and other clubs could forget about even pursuing the pitcher.

But the two sides had trouble narrowing their differences on the amount of guaranteed money. Concerned about Yang's decline as he enters his mid-30s, the Tigers offered a larger share of performance-based incentives than guaranteed salary. Yang, on the other hand, demanded more guaranteed money.

The Tigers made their final offer on Wednesday. Yang asked for more time to consider the proposal before putting his pen on the paper Friday.

In a statement released by the Tigers, Yang thanked the Tigers for giving him the opportunity to don their jersey again.

"I have never once viewed myself as separate from the Tigers. Ever since I decided to come back to Korea, I only thought about rejoining the team," Yang said. "I will do my best to bring joy to our fans until the day I retire."

Yang also apologized to fans for unwittingly giving them a cause for concern during contract talks.

The two-time ERA champion has compiled a 147-95 record and a 3.83 ERA over 1,986 innings with the Tigers. In 2017, he won both the regular season and the Korean Series MVP honors, while helping the Tigers to their first championship in eight years.

After missing the postseason in each of the past three years, the Tigers have been undergoing a major makeover this winter. They have brought in new general manager and manager, and gave free agent outfielder Na Sung-bum a six-year, 15 billion won contract, tied for the largest free agent deal in KBO history. (Yonhap)

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