More surprising than the contract totals are the guarantees. One baseball insider who watched the free agent signings of Jeon Jun-woo (37, Lotte Giants) and Ahn Chi-hong (33, Lotte Giants) on Tuesday coined the phrase “twilight contracts” to describe them.
Jeon, born in 1986, signed a four-year, up to 4.7 billion won contract with the original Lotte team. It included 4 billion won in guaranteed money and 700 million won in incentives. In his mid-30s, he exercised his second free agency right, and the terms were even better. In January 2020, when he exercised his first free agency right, Jeon signed for four years and a maximum of 3.4 billion won (3.2 billion won guaranteed). His second free agent contract allows him to play until he is at least 40 years old. With four guaranteed years, the total is bound to increase.굿모닝토토 도메인
Ahn Chi-hong’s signing also caught our eye. Ahn Chi-hong, who left Lotte for the Hanwha Eagles, signed a 4+2 year deal worth up to 7.2 billion won. After fulfilling the first four years of the contract totaling 5.5 billion won (4.7 billion won guaranteed, 800 million won optional), the club and player must decide whether to extend the contract for an additional two years (mutual option). Ahn Chi-hong switched from the KIA Tigers to Lotte in January 2020, signing a 2+2 year, up to 5.6 billion won free agent contract. The deal also included an option for an additional two years, which he exercised after the 2021 season.
The contract, which can last up to six years, guarantees Ahn Chi-hong’s playing life until a ripe old age. The head coach of Club A said, “Both players are not good defensive players. Not all players can play until the age of 40, and I don’t know if it’s becoming a trend.” “Jeon Jun-woo is a franchise star (in Busan), and considering his value, I think we can offer him better terms than other clubs, but I don’t understand Ahn Chi-hong,” he said.
In the past, the market value of players in their mid-30s was not high. It was difficult for him to get a guaranteed four-year contract because he thought his retirement was imminent. Park Byung-ho, the “Home Run King,” signed a free agent contract with the KT Wiz in December 2021. Park, who was 35 years old at the time, signed a three-year contract worth up to 3 billion won (2.7 billion won guaranteed, 300 million won option). He was two years older than Ahn Chi-hong on the date of signing, but the terms were very different.
A B team official said, “There are more and more cases of players maintaining their skills even as they age. On the one hand, there is no way to reinforce power, so (clubs) have no choice but to be attracted to players,” he lamented. In recent years, the KBO has seen an increase in non-free agent multi-year contracts. Most big-name players sign multi-year deals with their original teams before being released as free agents. This is one of the reasons why this year’s free agency market has been called a “disaster”. There are fewer players for sale than there is demand, so the price goes up. Teams are forced to open their wallets if they want to add power.
Agents are negotiating more aggressively. With more objective data than in the past, clubs can’t blindly reduce a player’s value. By opening a two-track negotiation window, they can improve the terms of a player’s contract. “Unless a player’s skills or performance have dropped significantly, the contract terms of Jeon Jun-woo and Ahn Chi-hong can serve as a barometer for negotiations,” said a representative from Club C.