Two free agent duos who were cold-shouldered and ostracized four years ago are now together at Lotte. Jeon Jun-woo (38) and Ahn Chi-hong (33) were undervalued in their first free agency four years ago and ended up getting stampeded for relatively little money with no competition. Now it’s time for them to qualify for a second free agency and be re-evaluated.
Jun-woo Jeon and Chi-hong Ahn are veterans in their mid-to-late 30s, but they remain an integral part of Lotte’s batting lineup. Jun-woo is the most senior member of the team, and Ahn is the captain, leading the team as a leadership group.
Jun-woo is a franchise star who has been with Lotte for 16 years. He took over the top spot when Lee Dae-ho retired, but is still one of the team’s most productive players. Foreign hitters and younger big hitters alike have been underwhelming, but Jeon has been a constant. It’s hard to imagine a lineup without him right now. He’s batting .351 (99 for 99) with 13 home runs, 54 RBIs, 56 runs scored, seven doubles, and an OPS of .805. He leads the team in both home runs and OPS.
Ahn Chi-hong is also a pillar of the infield and anchors the team with his quiet leadership. A solid presence in the clubhouse and on the field. He is batting .357 (106-for-107) with six home runs, 53 RBI, 47 runs scored, and a .778 OPS. He is second on the team in both home runs and OPS. He’s also one of the league’s best runners in scoring position, going 3-for-6. He has the second-best on-base percentage among players with regular at-bats (Samsung’s Koo Ja-uk is first at .425).
Not surprisingly, their Wins Above Replacement (WAR) numbers are the first and second best on the team. According to Statiz, Ahn is at 2.47 and Jeon is at 1.81. Both on and off the field, they are irreplaceable for Lotte right now.
But when they hit the market as first-time free agents at the end of the 2019 season, they had to face a cold reality. The two became close friends when they were selected for the Incheon Asian Games in 2014 and joined the police baseball team as teammates. We had a lot in common, and we spent our first free agency together.메이저놀이터
The market was not very active and there was no competition as most teams were tightening their belts. There were no conditions for them to get a big contract. Eventually, Jeon Jun-woo signed with Lotte for four years and 3.6 billion won, and Ahn Chi-hong left KIA to sign an unprecedented deal with Lotte for 2+2 years and 5.6 billion won. Ahn Chi-hong opted to stay with Lotte for four years, with a two-year extension option during the 2021 season.
In many ways, it was a deal that was far from what they were known for at the time. They were desperate and spent the next four years proving their worth. Until this year, they were among the top 20 in the league in WAR. Jun-woo Jeon is 15th with 12.91 over four years, and Chi-hong Ahn is 20th overall with 11,17. We can see that they are still competitive hitters in the league. However, their contributions on defense make them less valuable. Jun-woo Jeon is also playing left field this year, but he’s more of a designated hitter. Ahn Chi-hong is also a second baseman, but has been playing more often at first base. He’s more valuable as a left fielder than a designated hitter, and as a second baseman than a first baseman.
Without them, Lotte’s batting lineup would not be as competitive. Most importantly, the veterans Jeon Jun-woo and Ahn Chi-hong need to anchor the team at a time when manager Larry Sutton has voluntarily resigned (effectively fired) due to health reasons. The team is currently in seventh place, five games behind fifth-place KIA. If Jun-woo Jeon and Ahn Chi-hong can work together to elevate the team in the remaining 36 games, their value could be even higher. Lotte’s turnaround, and the revaluation of Jeon Jun-woo and Ahn Chi-hong, will all depend on their performance in the remaining games.