The worries about the living room have definitely been alleviated. However, there is a different ‘big picture’ that the KIA Tigers draw.
KIA agreed to a three-year contract with catcher Kim Tae-gun (34) worth a total of 2.5 billion won (annual salary 2 billion won, option 500 million won). When Tae-goon Kim was brought in to the Samsung Lions in July on the condition of giving up infielder Ji-hyuk Ryu, there was always speculation that KIA would pursue a multi-year contract. Kim Tae-goon’s side also expressed its willingness to sign a multi-year contract from the beginning of joining KIA. KIA, who was in an all-out battle system due to the battle for the top 5 in the second half, was the first to solve the homework of Kim Tae-goon’s contract ahead of the opening of the Stove League.
Kim Tae-gun, who made his professional debut at LG in 2008, became the starting catcher when he joined the then-new team NC in 2013. He also appeared in the entire pennant race for the only time since his debut in 2015. However, during his military service, Yang Eui-ji (now Doosan) joined the team, and his position was greatly reduced, and he was traded to Samsung in 2022. This year, he became the starting catcher again while wearing the KIA uniform.
As of the 17th, Taegun Kim recorded a batting average of .254 (78 hits in 307 at-bats), 1 home run, 40 RBI, and OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of 0.598 in 113 games as of the 17th. When looking at his career batting average (.204, 8 ri) or OPS (0.621), it is difficult to say that he is a highly productive hitter. However, in that he showed good skills in defense such as framing, blocking, throwing ability, and leading, he can be said to be someone who can solve the anxiety that KIA has had in recent seasons.
However, the effect KIA aimed for through the multi-year contract is not limited to stability at home.
KIA has quite a few potential catchers. Han Jun-su (24),스포츠토토 who is currently playing the role of backup to Kim Tae-gun, and Shin Beom-su (25), who was used in the mid to late first half of the season, have shown talent in hitting, which was pointed out as the biggest weakness of KIA’s catchers. Not only these players, but Kwon Hyuk-kyung (21), who is serving in the military, and Joo Hyo-sang (26), who gained considerable experience as a backup during his time at Kiwoom, have the potential to grow into good catchers if they are trained well. However, considering the nature of the catcher position, which still lacks a lot in terms of experience and takes a considerable amount of time to develop, it is unreasonable to expect them to play their part right away. They need more time to grow further.
It is difficult for Kim Tae-goon, who is in his mid-30s and is in his mid-30s, to play the entire pennant race as a catcher, which requires extreme physical strength. A rotation supported by KIA’s young catchers is inevitable. Backup resources can aim for growth synergy by accompanying Kim Tae-gun and having the opportunity to acquire not only the experience of playing but also the skills of the veteran. It can be said that the ultimate goal that KIA wants to achieve from the contract with Taegun Kim is the growth of promising players.
With the contract with Kim Tae-gun, KIA was given three years to develop as a catcher. However, player growth is not achieved through simple appearances or being a starting player. There are many operational issues that need to be resolved, such as improving skills or coordinating the timing of competition. By the time the contract ends, Kim Tae-gun will be in his late 30s, and KIA will have to find a replacement internally. The evaluation of the contract with Kim Tae-goon is expected to change depending on whether KIA can solve the task of developing catchers over the next three years.