Technical support issues
The 2024 season KIA Tigers infield is full of variables. Can veteran infielders such as Kang Han-ul and Kim Min-seong, who are on the free agent market, and Seo Geon-chang, who became a free agent, be options to strengthen depth?
KIA has the biggest question mark over its infield strength for the 2024 season. ‘Former captain’ second baseman Kim Sun-bin entered the free agent market. Since his retention cannot be 100% guaranteed, he cannot be a constant in the 2024 season lineup at this point.
Third baseman Kim Do-young and shortstop Park Chan-ho underwent surgery requiring long-term rehabilitation due to hand injuries caused by head-first sliding and hitting the ball, respectively. It is unclear whether both players will be able to join the first team in perfect condition at the beginning of the 2024 season. First baseman Hwang Dae-in also needs rehabilitation after undergoing surgery to remove bone fragments from his right elbow.
With many question marks surrounding the main infield, KIA plans to focus on nurturing internal resources such as Byun Woo-hyuk, Kim Kyu-seong, Hong Jong-pyo, and Park Min. However, if young infielders do not advance to the level where they can advance to the first team stage, there will inevitably be major setbacks in team management in the early part of the 2024 season.
Strengthening depth is essential to become a winner in a long-term race. In particular, if veteran fielders are good at filling in the gaps that may suddenly appear, it will create an opportunity to quickly escape from a crisis situation. In the case of the LG Twins, who achieved the combined championship in the 2023 season, the performance of veteran infielder Kim Min-seong, who filled in the absence of Oh Ji-hwan's injury at the beginning of the season, stood out.
KIA is also in desperate need of an experienced infielder. Since Ryu Ji-hyuk, who played that role well, left the team through a trade in the middle of the 2023 season, the vacuum is bound to be more real. Therefore, attention is being paid to whether KIA will seek to reinforce veteran infielders through external recruitment.
In the free agent market, Kim Min-seong and Kang Han-ul are listed as possible resources to reinforce infield depth. Kim Min-seong appeared in 112 games in the 2023 season and showed a rebound with a batting average of 0.249/68 hits/8 home runs/41 RBI. He is capable of playing all infield positions and still has the sniping hitting ability of a left-handed pitcher that has not yet rusted. Kim Min-seong, who takes good care of his body and sets an example for his juniors with his warm leadership, is an essential player in long-term races.
Kang Han-ul's advantage is that he is a utility player who can stably play all positions in the infield defense. Born in 1991 as an infielder with experience playing in 829 games for the first team, he is evaluated as a resource that can be helpful in strengthening the team's infield depth for the next few years. Of course, we must take into account that Kim Min-seong is a FA B grade with a compensatory player, and Kang Han-ul is a FA C grade without a compensatory player.
Seo Geon-chang, who was excluded from LG's pending player list, is also a resource that can be brought in without any compensation in return. LG released Seo Geon-chang as a free agent at the request of Seo Geon-chang, who has a strong will to extend his active career. KIA is also expected to consider recruiting Seo Geon-chang, who is also from Gwangju, to strengthen its depth.
It is curious whether KIA will pursue external recruitment of veteran fielders to strengthen the depth of the infield, which is the biggest concern in the 2024 season.
Friday, January 5, 2024