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Ryu Hyun-jin returns to Korea, receives poor treatment as MVP

His dream to become a free agent has gone up in smoke. Former MVP slugger Cody Bellinger chose to become a free agent again while staying with the Chicago Cubs. Scott Boras' pride should not be hurt, either. Boras, who boasted about his plan to pitch in the U.S., not in Korea next year (2024) was a tough time for Korean Monster pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin, but he couldn't keep the promise after all.

Bellinger held a press conference on the free agent  contract in Mesa, Arizona, where the Cubs' spring training took place on the 29th of last month (Korea time). On the previous day (28th), a free agent (FA) contract with an annual opt-out for three years and $80 million was announced, with Cubs baseball operation chairman Jed Hoyer and agent Boras on both sides.

Bellinger, who peaked at an early age with the Los Angeles Dodgers when he won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2017 and the MVP in 2019, crashed for the third consecutive year due to injuries and sluggishness. Eventually, after not being loaned to the Dodgers after the 2022 season, he attempted to make a comeback with the Cubs on a one-year, $17.5 million contract. Some teams offered multi-year deals, but they chose to sign one year to compete as free agents, and Bellinger has revived with a 130-game batting average of 377 with 26 homers, 97 RBIs, and 20 steals OPS 881. Playing center field and first baseman, he reaffirmed his worth in defense as well.

Up to this point, everything went as planned. As we entered the free agent market, we looked forward to signing large-scale contracts worth over 200 million dollars. However, there was no news of Bellinger even after major free agents such as Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto signed contracts. Clubs attracted players one by one due to higher price than expected, and as the market's interest cooled, the price plummeted as well.

After spring training began in February, he remained uncontracted, and Bellinger eventually declared himself a 'towal' before February ended. He returned to his original team, the Cubs, and chose to try again as a free agent. He has a three-year contract, but he can exercise his free agent status by canceling his contract after the season.

He was considered the biggest free agent except Ohtani, but no one expected that Bellinger would be treated as much as Lee Jung-hoo (six years and 113 million dollars) from the KBO League. He is definitely the biggest off-season player.

"I wanted to come here," Bellinger said at a press conference. I wanted to come back to the Cubs. Last year, we were very close to the playoffs. So it was important for me to come back to the team. I want to help the team make the playoffs. I really love Wrigley Field, and I love my fans. "Me and my family enjoyed living in Chicago," he said, adding to his re-signing with the Cubs.

However, he couldn't hide his disappointment completely as it wasn't the long-term contract he was expecting. "I was thinking about a long-term contract, and ultimately that was the goal. I kept talking to Boras to see what was going on," he said. "I'm glad everything is going well. Of course, I thought about a longer contract, but I'm very excited about all of this," he tried to soothe the disappointment.

With Ryu Hyun-jin returning to Korea, key Boras clients such as Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Matt Chapman and JD Martinez remain unsigned in the free agent market. "There are some irregularities in the market right now," Boras said. "Even though the baseball world is making record profits, nearly 11 teams have reduced their spending compared to a year ago," he said, claiming that teams that do not spend money have been tightening the market. In fact, 18 out of 30 Major League teams are spending less than the league average, according to "Spot Trek." The bankruptcy of the parent company Diamond Sports Group, which holds the local TV broadcasting rights of 14 clubs, also had the effect of clubs not opening their wallets as major sources of income were cut off.

However, a bigger reason for the "question mark" is Bellinger, who has suffered a severe decline in the Dodgers over the past three years. Although there was a rebound last year, giving up a one-year long-term contract is risky. As a result, Boras also changed his strategy and pursued a short-term contract as an opt-out rather than a long-term contract. "FA is like turkey, thermometer. You have to go in and check and evaluate what the temperature is like. Bellinger and I looked at some of these issues. We had to come up with the best option depending on the situation, which included flexible short-term contracts," he explained.
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Thursday, February 29, 2024
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