Kiwoom, which had ‘won the championship’, turns to ‘rebuilding the road’ after its departure

Kiwoom hands over starting pitcher Choi Won-tae to LG.

In a season that was considered to be more ‘championship time’ than ever. However, the departure of “key player” Lee Jung-hoo (25) forced the Kiwoom Heroes to hit the rebuild button again.

On April 29, Kiwoom made a trade with the LG Twins, handing over pitcher Choi Won-tae in exchange for infielder Lee Ju-hyung, pitcher Kim Dong-gyu, and a 2024 first-round draft pick.

It’s a typical “major league-style” trade, where you give up a league-leading starting pitcher and get three prospects, including a draft pick. LG wanted to win, and Kiwoom wanted to win for the future.

With limited funds, Kiwoom has a history of making trades like this before. Prior to last season, the team traded their iconic “home run king” Park Byung-ho to KT Wiz as a free agent. The idea was to build a team around promising young players rather than expensive veterans.

Kium Lee Jung-hoo.

But this year was different. Kiwoom, who finished runner-up in the Korean Series last season, saw this year as the right time to win the title, as it could be Lee’s last season before heading overseas. They were confident that they could challenge for the championship if they strengthened the two pillars of Lee and Ahn Woo-jin.

For the first time in 11 years, they acquired bullpen pitcher Won Jong-hyun, outfielder Lee Hyung-jong, and retained their own free agent, Jung Chan-heon. During the season, they added infielder Lee Won-seok, who is the same age as Park Byung-ho, via trade, and signed him to a non-free agent multi-year contract.

It was a rare sight to see Kiwoom actively recruiting veterans, and it was clear that the team was determined to win a championship.

However, the ambitious “investment” didn’t translate directly into performance.

Won Jong-hyun suffered an elbow injury that landed him on the operating table, and Lee Hyung-jong continued his slump with a batting average in the low 20s. Lee Won-seok, who had been swinging the bat until just before the trade, struggled afterward and his batting average dropped to the mid-twenties.

In the midst of all this, Lee Jung-hoo’s injury came as a “decisive blow. Lee went under the knife with a left ankle injury, effectively ruling him out for the rest of the regular season. The team traded Choi Won-tae, who had been the team’s third starter, exactly one week after Lee’s departure.

Kiwoom said that the team hasn’t “given up on the season,” but one can’t help but feel that the rebuilding button has been pushed. It’s also a point of criticism because the team traded away a starting pitcher in his 20s who was just reaching his peak.

Of course, Kiwoom was also deeply troubled. Even with Lee Jeong-hoo, the team was not able to perform well, and it would be even more difficult without him.

Migrating to Kiumb.

We also had to consider that Choi Won-tae will be eligible for free agency if he stays with us through next season, which is not easy if there is competition and his price goes up. We had to weigh the value of Won-Tae Choi (+ compensation) against what we could get for him with his current trade card.

Lee Joo-hyung, the “centerpiece” of the Choi Won-tae trade, was recognized as a “top-tier” prospect even in LG, which has a lot of prospects. He has good hitting talent and has already solved the military problem at the young age of 2001. He joined the team as a second baseman, but he can also play outfield defense and fill Lee Jung-hoo’s spot.

In addition, this trade will allow Kiwoom to “collect” a lot of prospects for the upcoming rookie draft in September.

Prior to this trade, Kiwoom also received a second-round pick from the KIA Tigers for catcher Joo Hyo-sang a season ago, and a third-round pick from the Samsung Lions for Lee Won-seok this season.

Soon, they’ll have two picks each in the first and third rounds, giving them six of the top 30 picks in a Kiwoom uniform.

Of course, it remains to be seen if any of them will be as valuable as Choi Won-tae. However, Kiwoom has taken a sober look at the situation and, as it has done before, 한국야동 has come up with a “Kiwoom-esque” alternative.

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