The Lotte Giants and Samsung Lions had a frustrating 2023. Can the new year bring a different season? There’s plenty to be hopeful about.
Lotte and Samsung, two classic teams whose names haven’t changed since the beginning, failed to make the postseason in 2023.
Lotte finished the regular season in seventh place and Samsung in eighth. Expectations were high for these two teams, which makes the results all the more disappointing.
Lotte made aggressive investments and signings ahead of last season. They brought in Yoo Kang-nam, Noh Jin-hyuk, and Han Hyun-hee as free agents to bolster all of their weak positions. They also added catcher, shortstop, and pitcher, which were considered weak spots, but it didn’t pay off.
This is especially unfortunate for Lotte, as they made a splash early on in the season, rising to the top of the standings. The first half of the season was a hot one, with a solid batting lineup and a strong bullpen. But the firepower didn’t last long. The team struggled in the second half, culminating in the resignation of manager Larry Sutton due to health concerns, and ended the regular season in seventh place.
Expectations were not low for Samsung.
While the team wasn’t exactly touted as a force to be reckoned with before the season, they ended the 2022 season on a high note. The growth of younger players in their early to mid-20s was prominent, and there were expectations that if the veterans took center stage and the younger players grew at the same time, it would be enough to turn things around. In particular, Samsung had a full-fledged new regime in place with the appointment of “young coach” Park Jin-man as acting head coach.
However, a combination of poor performances from veteran players and a bigger-than-expected bullpen struggle led to the team falling to the bottom of the standings. Samsung had never finished last since its inception, so there was an atmosphere of ‘let’s just finish 10th’. It was a humiliating performance for the venerable company.
That doesn’t mean they didn’t invest. Both teams spent more than 10 billion won on their 2023 roster salaries alone.
According to data released by the KBO last month, 안전놀이터 Lotte ranked fourth overall with a total of 10.646 billion won for the top 40 players in 2023. Doosan, SSG, and LG spent the most money on player salaries alone. Even with the salary cap, they only have 779.71 million won to spare.
Samsung is right behind Lotte
Spending 10.4073 billion won. It has a salary cap surplus of 985.65 million won. These are the salaries of the top 40 players, so if you add the salaries of players who are not included, the actual expenditure will be even higher. Considering that player salaries account for the largest portion of a baseball team’s annual expenses, it doesn’t mean that Lotte and Samsung have been negligent or unwilling to invest in reinforcement. It’s just that it wasn’t a reasonable or satisfactory investment.
Lotte and Samsung are popular, regionally based franchises representing the large cities of Busan and Daegu, respectively. If their performances are up to par, their box-office power could translate into league-wide success. The new year will be a different story. There are elements of hope. Samsung is once again motivated and building a new team under new head coach Lee Jong-yeol. They signed free agent Kim Jae-yoon and have been aggressively pursuing bullpen arms in the second round of the draft to bolster their bullpen, which was their biggest weakness last season. The team is also focusing on internal free agents such as Oh Seung-hwan, Kim Dae-woo, and Kang Kang-ul.
This kind of atmosphere can energize the entire team. Park Jin-man, in his second season as manager, is also determined to make fewer mistakes.
Lotte hired “master” Kim Tae-hyung, who led Doosan to the Korean Series for seven consecutive years. The appointment of “young manager” Park Joon-hyuk, a former Giants employee, is the culmination of a harmonious organization. Lotte is a “team with a lot of good resources” recognized by other clubs. The team’s first goal is to produce results that satisfy fans in a “win-now” mode that not only nurtures prospects but also produces immediate results.