SSG Landers, looking to win the Korean Series for the second straight year, made a bold move. They released pitcher Kim Jung-woo (24), who has a 1.84 ERA in the Futures League this season, and acquired middle-of-the-order right-hander Kang Jin-sung (30) from the Doosan Bears. SSG gave up a military-grade right-handed pitcher they had developed for six years because they had a strong pool of right-handed prospects and were desperate for a right-handed bat.
SSG head coach Kim Sung-yong told Star News on the 25th, “I can’t help but look at the team’s composition and prospects. In that sense, there are many good right-handers in our team, such as Shin Heon-min, Lee Roon, and Song Young-jin, so (Kim Jung-woo) has been pushed down in priority. It’s not because he can’t do it. I think this trade could be an opportunity for him in some ways,” he said.
Earlier in the day, SSG and Doosan executed a one-for-one trade for Kim Jong-woo and Kang Jin-sung. SSG said, “We pursued this trade with the goal of strengthening our right outfield depth. With the addition of Kang Jin-sung, who can play corner outfield and first base defense, we expect him to be highly versatile in both offense and defense.” Doosan also commented on Kim’s arrival, saying, “He has a solid physical condition with a height of 183 centimeters and a weight of 87 kilograms, and he has a fastball, slider, changeup, and curveball. As a military right-handed pitcher, he is expected to provide strength in the bullpen.”
Kim Jung-woo is a right-handed pitcher who joined SK (now SSG) with the first pick in the 2018 rookie draft after graduating from Soraecho-Dongdongjo-Dongdonggo. He made one first-team appearance in 2019, but was limited to one inning in one game. He enlisted in the Armed Forces Athletic Corps (Commerce) in 2020 to deal with his military issues first and returned to the team last year.
It was this year, his second year back, that he showed promise. By March 25, he was 2-1 with a 1.84 ERA in 14 games and four saves in the Futures League. His quality of play was good, too, with just five walks (four strikeouts and one hit-by-pitch) in 13 games and 13⅔ innings against the Hanwha Futures team on April 15.
However, Kim was disappointed to see the SSG rookies make their mark early this year, as Lee Ro-ro (1R, 19-2023) and Song Young-jin (2R, 19-2023) have established themselves as the mainstays of the pitching staff with a 3.77 ERA in 12 games and a 3.95 ERA in seven games, respectively. In addition, Shin Heon-min (1R, 21-2022) and Kim Do-hyun (2R, 20-2022) are developing well. In the first team, Choi Min-joon (24), Seo Jin-yong (31), and Noh Kyung-eun (39) are singing the resurrection hymn. The SSG right-handed pitching staff is so solid right now that the “12 billion starter duo” Park Jong-hoon (33)-Moon Seung-won (34) looks like a disappointment.
Right-handed poverty, on the other hand, was quite severe. Outside of Kim Kang-min (41), Choi Jeong (36), and Oh Tae-gon (32), there were no reliable right-handers. The growth of the promising right-handed prospects was slow, and whenever Kim and Oh were injured, the team was left without a solution. Ha Jae-hoon (33), who was sidelined for two months with a shoulder injury, was called up to the first team after nine games with the Futures.
That’s when Kang Jin-seong, who hadn’t gotten a chance at Doosan, caught their eye, so they made an offer. “From spring training to exhibition games to 40 games in the regular season, I felt that the balance of our batting lineup was too heavily weighted toward left-handed hitters, so I started thinking about hitters who could be strong against left-handed pitchers, and I remembered Kang Jin-sung, who I had been watching since last year,” said Kim Sung-yong.
In 2020, a career-high year, Kang hit .388 (80-for-31) with six home runs and an OPS of 1.060 against left-handed pitching, helping the NC Dinos win their first championship. Unlike Jamsil Ballpark, SSG Landers Field’s hitter-friendly environment was something to look forward to. The trade went smoothly as the needs of the two teams were aligned. SSG offered Kang Jin-sung on the 21st, Doosan chose Kim Jung-woo after review, and the two teams announced the trade on the 25th. 스포츠토토
While it’s unfortunate that Kim didn’t get a chance to pitch, for SSG, the trade means that their pitching staff is now strong enough to give up a player who had a sub-1 ERA in the Futures League. The roster is also diverse, with rookies who have been playing since their first year (Lee Rin, Song Young-jin), mid-level players who have seen the light after a long time (Choi Min-joon, Seo Jin-yong), and a veteran who everyone thought would be difficult (Noh Kyung-eun), indicating a bright future for SSG.