“If it’s outside of our standards, it could be difficult” Hong Gun-hee’s free agency talks a sign of protracted negotiations? Doosan, which spent 7.8 billion, has become cautious

Doosan Bears, who spent 7.8 billion won to keep ‘free agent’ Yang Seok-hwan, have become cautious. The remaining internal free agent, Hong Gun-hee, has also set his sights on staying, but there are signs that the negotiations are heading for a protracted battle as the player’s side has some disagreements. Doosan, which has made a string of big contracts recently, is conscious of the salary cap during negotiations.

With first baseman Yang Seok-hwan (32) and pitching coach Hong Gun-hee (31) eligible for free agency after the 2023 season, Doosan announced a crackdown on house rabbits ahead of the Stovrig. First, the team made a concerted effort to retain Yang, who was the highest-priced free agent, and completed the deal in just two meetings on Nov. 27 and 29.

The terms of Yang’s free agent contract are 4+2 years and up to 7.8 billion won. The first four years are worth up to 6.5 billion won (2 billion won in signing bonus, 3.9 billion won in total annual salary, and 600 million won in incentives), and include a two-year, 1.3 billion won mutual option that can be triggered by agreement of the club and player after the four-year contract ends.

Doosan officially announced the signing of Yang on Nov. 30 and then met with Hong’s agent later that same day for a second round of house rabbit enforcement. Although the two sides did not come up with specific contract terms from the first meeting, they confirmed the differences in their positions and concluded the meeting without any major gains. 캡틴토토 도메인

In a phone conversation with OSEN, a Doosan official said, “First, we talked to Hong Gun-hee’s side about the overall atmosphere. We will plan the next meeting after we have a better understanding of the FA market situation.”

Six days later, Doosan has yet to schedule another meeting with Hong. The team is waiting for the right time, keeping a close eye on the remaining free agent signings and Hong’s position in the market.

The key to signing Hong will be the salary cap. Doosan, which has invested heavily in retaining internal free agents such as Yang Seok-hwan, Kim Jae-hwan, Heo Kyung-min, and Jeong Soo-bin, is reportedly at the limit of its salary cap for the 2024 season. However, the negotiations are not going smoothly as there is a difference between the amount set by Doosan and the conditions demanded by Hong Gun-hee’s side.

Doosan has made it clear that it will unconditionally retain Hong in accordance with the salary cap, but will not ‘overpay’ her. In the worst case scenario, the negotiations could break down.

A Doosan official said, “The salary cap is currently tight. We have a certain standard that we think is appropriate for Hong’s contract, and if it doesn’t go beyond that standard, we can sign her as a free agent, otherwise it might be difficult.”

Unlike Yang Seok-hwan, we haven’t heard anything from free agent Hong Gun-hee since their first meeting. Faced with the salary cap, it remains to be seen if the two sides can resolve their differences and put their stamp on the contract.

Hong joined Doosan from KIA in a one-for-one trade for Ryu Ji-hyuk in June 2020. Like Yang Seok-hwan, Hong Gun-hee is another player who changed his life through a trade. After struggling with his fastball at KIA, he became one of the league’s top relievers with a strong fastball that became his secondary pitch.

From his professional debut in 2011 to his trade, Hong logged 347 innings over the course of nearly a decade, but after joining Doosan, he amassed 254⅔ innings in just four seasons until this year. He started the 2020 season with 68⅔ innings, followed by 74⅓ in 2021, 62 in 2022, and 61⅔ this year, anchoring the Doosan back end. In that span, he has 12 wins, 44 saves, and 39 holds.

This year, he served as the closer for Lee Seung-ho, giving way to Chung Chul-won at the end of the year, but finished with a 1-5 record, 22 saves, and a 3.06 ERA in 64 games. Hong also served as Doosan’s pitching coach for three consecutive years starting in 2021.

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