“I’d give myself a pat on the back and say ‘hard work’.”
It took him 15 years to reach free agency. He didn’t have a fiery fastball or a glamorous career, but he stuck with it and pitched where his team needed him. For Hanwha pitcher Jang Min-jae, 33, signing a free agent contract is like a badge of honor, a sign of survival after 15 years in the pros.
Jang Min-jae signed a two-year, $800 million contract with the Korean baseball team on Nov. 21. He will earn a total of 400 million won in salary in 2024-2025 with an option for 100 million won in 2026, with another 200 million won in salary and an option for 100 million won. The guaranteed amount is 400 million won, which is not a big deal.
On the same day, LG pitcher Im Chan-gyu signed a four-year, 5 billion won contract (2.6 billion won guaranteed) and shortstop Oh Ji-hwan signed a six-year, 12.4 billion won contract (10 billion won guaranteed). Of the eight free agents signed so far this winter, 토토사이트 this was the second smallest contract after Kia’s Ko Jong-wook (2 years, 500 million won, guaranteed). In terms of guaranteed money without options, it’s the same minimum as Ko Jong-wook.
But for Jang, the size of the contract didn’t matter much.
For him, it was all about staying with Hanwha. The former Gwangju Ilgo player has been with the organization for 15 years, having been drafted 22nd overall in the third round in 2009. He’s never been a flashy star, but he’s been the salt of the earth, starting and saving games as needed.
From the time he applied for free agency, he had no intention of leaving Hanwha. The team wanted to protect one more player before the second round of the draft, so they encouraged Jang Min-jae to apply for free agency. Players who apply for free agency are automatically excluded from being selected in the second round of the draft. Jang entered the free agency market with a consensus to stay, and during the negotiation process, we worked out the details in a reasonable manner without hurting feelings.
However, because the contract took a while to finalize, there were some negative comments from some quarters. It also reached the ears of the parties. “It took me a while to think carefully because I’m a free agent for the first time and maybe the last time,” says Jang Min-jae. “There were no problems during the negotiation process with the club, but it hurt my heart to hear that they said, ‘You’re going to leave the market for money and become an orphan’. I wasn’t chasing money or trying to go to another team. I was struggling with that,” he said.
For a player, free agency is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and chasing money is not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s a player’s right, and Hanwha didn’t pressure Jang Min-jae during the negotiation process. They gave him time to explore the market, stay and make a decision. Being a C-grade free agent doesn’t mean there wasn’t interest from other teams, but Jang’s mind wasn’t elsewhere.
“My first priority was always the Hanwha Eagles. I had no intention of going anywhere else,” he said. “The Hanwha Eagles are my home. It’s like a family. They say it’s hard to leave home. I feel comfortable in Daejeon. (He was born in Gwangju), but Daejeon is now my hometown. I will retire with Hanwha,” he said, vowing to be an “eternal Hanwha man.
Another big significance is that it was 15 years in the making. Jang, who started playing baseball in the first grade at Gwangju Hwajung Elementary School, threw a lot of pitches at a young age and underwent two elbow surgeries before turning pro. Even as a pro, Jang enlisted in the military in 2012 after undergoing elbow surgery. The three surgeries made him a slower pitcher, but he somehow managed to survive, developing his delivery and dropping his forkball sharply. His aggressive, no-hit approach kept him in the pros for 15 years.
Throughout his career, he had his ups and downs, but his integrity and silence never changed.
“I want to praise myself for ‘hard work,’ because it’s not easy to play baseball until free agency, no matter how much money you make or how little,” said Jang Min-jae, who managed to sign a free agent contract after 15 years. I’m not an A-level player, but I want to give meaning to the fact that I made it to free agency by persevering.” He thanked his family, saying, “I’m grateful to my parents and sister, who have been supporting me all this time.”
Being a free agent didn’t end there; the responsibility grew. “I have to go in the direction where the team can do well. I’m looking forward to next season because my friend (An) Qihong is coming and we have more power. We’ll have a new stadium next year, 바카라사이트 and it feels great to imagine lifting the trophy there,” said Jang Min-jae. “No matter what my position is, I’ll throw for the team. No matter what the score is, I will throw hard for the team and win.”