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Eleven players declare free agency in Korean baseball

Eleven players have declared free agency in South Korea’s top baseball league, officials said Friday.

The Korea Baseball Organization said veteran designated hitter Hong Sung-heon and speedy outfielder Kim Joo-chan, both of the Lotte Giants, are among the 11 players who exercised their rights to test the market.

Under the league rule, the eight KBO teams, aside from the expansion NC Dinos, can acquire up to two free agents this offseason.

If there are eight or fewer free agents, teams can only sign one free agent. If the number of free agents is between nine and 16, teams can acquire up to two such players.

The Dinos, which will join the KBO in 2013, can sign up to three free agents, regardless of the size of the pool.

Hong, 35, is a former catcher who later became a designated hitter with the Giants, which he joined in 2009. He batted .292 with 15 home runs and 74 RBI as the Giants’ cleanup hitter in 2012.

Kim, 31, stole 32 bases in 2012, and has averaged 35 steals a seasons since 2007 as the leadoff man for Lotte. He can play outfield and first base.

Other free agents include outfielder Lee Jin-young of the LG Twins, a career .302 hitter, and designated hitter Lee Ho-joon of the SK Wyverns, who had 18 homers and a .300 average this season.

Among pitchers, Jong Hyun-wook, relief pitcher for the Samsung Lions, will test the market. He appeared in 54 games this year and posted an ERA of 3.16 in 62 2/3 innings, striking out 48.

The free agents can negotiate with the current teams for extensions between Nov. 10 and 16. If their talks fall through, the players are free to talk with seven teams other than their original club from Nov. 17 to 23.

Most free agents are expected to stay put and re-sign with their original teams this year. (Yonhap News)
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