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Kim returns to Jamsil, but in LG colors

Former Phillies star will don Twins red and black next season
Dec 20,2017
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From left: Kim Hyun-soo of formerly the Philadelphia Phillies watches his ball during the game against the Los Angeles Angels in California. Kim poses for a photo wearing the Twins’ gear after signing on Tuesday. [AP/YONHAP]
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Kim Hyun-soo, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies, has officially signed a four-year contract with the LG Twins at 11.5 billion won ($10.6 million) on Tuesday.

Kim’s contract makes him the highest-paid outfielder in the KBO, exceeding Choi Hyoung-woo of the Kia Tigers, and the second-highest-paid free agent ever, after Lee Dae-ho of the Lotte Giants. Including the compensation the Twins had to pay the Bears, the Twins have spent more than 13 billion won in bringing Kim to the club.

Upon completion of the 2017 season, the Twins started their FA signing process with their sights firmly set on Kim. But it wasn’t until November that the Twins started contacting the slugger, as his priority was to stay in the major leagues after he earned his FA status from the Phillies.

Yang Sang-moon, general manager of the Twins, had publicly shown the club’s strong interest in signing Kim but, rather than rushing, the Twins patiently waited. Once there hadn’t been any announcement regarding a deal with a major league club last week, the Twins were quick to move in and lock down the signing process. The two were able to come to an agreement.

During the offseason the Twins had received nothing but criticism from the fans. Not only did the club release the majority of its veteran players, they also didn’t put much effort into signing top free agents Son Ah-seop of the Giants and Hwang Jae-gyun of the KT Wiz. The Twins also failed to retain their foreign pitcher, David Huff.

At one point, the club’s slow process led to fans gathering outside Jamsil Baseball Stadium to express their anger towards the club and call for the resignation of newly appointed general manager Yang.

But the addition of Kim to the Twins has definitely silenced the critics.

Having graduated from Shinil High School, the left-handed outfielder signed as an undrafted free agent with the Doosan Bears in 2006. Since he didn’t get drafted by any of the KBO clubs in the rookie draft, Kim was given no choice but to sign a contract with the Bears at only 20 million won. Despite Kim being an undrafted player, manager Kim Kyung-moon, who is now the manager of the NC Dinos, gave Kim a starting spot after starting outfielder Yoo Jae-woong was benched with a sprained ankle in 2007. Within three years Kim became the KBO’s top batter, winning the Golden Glove Award four times and was named KBO batting champion in 2008.

In Kim’s ten seasons with the Bears he had a batting average of 0.318 with 142 home runs and 771 RBIs while playing in 1,131 games.

During the 2015 season, Kim had a batting average of 0.326 with 28 home runs and 121 RBIs in 141 games. Kim continued to perform on the international stage as well, helping the team to a victory and winning the MVP award at the Premier12. As he earned his FA status after the 2015 season, Kim signed a two-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles at $7 million on Dec. 23, 2015.

After a successful debut season with a batting average of 0.302, in 2017 Kim fell behind in the Orioles’ starting lineup and eventually was traded to the Phillies. Kim struggled with the Phillies, finishing the season with a batting average of 0.230, four RBIs and zero home runs in 40 games.

“I’m thankful to the club for offering a new opportunity,” Kim said. “I’ll develop with the LG players and work hard to repay the fans support by winning more.”

Kim will have an official joining ceremony at the Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas in Seoul tomorrow.

The number of Korean players headed for the major league picked up in 2015, with some of the KBO’s biggest stars heading for the United States. Things have taken a turn this season, however, with some the majority of the major leaguers returning - Kim, Hwang and Park Byun-ho of the Nexen Heroes.

Of the remaining Koreans in the major league, Oh Seung-hwan, formerly the St. Louis Cardinals, is still up for grabs. As his two-year contract with the Cardinals has ended, Oh had a record of seven wins, nine losses, 29 saves and 21 holds with a 2.85 ERA. As of now, Oh has only been focusing on staying in the big league. There have been reports of the Arizona Diamondbacks showing interest in Oh.

BY KIM WON, KIM HYO-KYUNG, AND LEE HYEONG-SEOK [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]