The Lotte Giants threw a winning move to secure the semifinals. I used up two replacement cards for foreign players.
Lotte announced on the 18th that it will recruit right-hander Aaron Wilkerson (34), who played for the Hanshin Tigers in the Japanese professional baseball league last year as a new foreign pitcher, and said it will ask the KBO to announce the waver for Dan Straily (35).
On the 11th, he released outfielder Jack Rex (30), who had been struggling with a knee injury, and recruited Nico Goodrum (31) as an internal and external utility, and decided to replace two foreign players in a week.
Straily invested $2.3 million in total with $1 million in annual salary and Rex $1.3 million in total ($200,000 in down payment, $1 million in annual salary, $100,000 in options), but it was not a matter for fifth-ranked Lotte, which finished the first half with 38 wins and 39 losses.
Lotte, which had ranked first in the league with 22 wins and 12 losses (win rate .647) until May 19, has been on a sharp decline since then, with 16 wins 스포츠토토 and 27 losses (win rate .372), ranking only ninth during the same period. An event was needed to change the mood, and foreign players were changed one by one in pitching and hitting.
Straily, who was clearly aging, can’t accompany him anymore
Straily, who made his first relationship with Lotte in 2020, left for the United States after the 2021 season. He tried again in the Major League in the U.S., where his family is, but failed to achieve his goal, and made a comeback to Lotte in August last year. It was a multi-year contract with an annual salary of $400,000 for the rest of the season and $1 million guaranteed in 2023.
In the second half of last year, he performed well with 4 wins, 2 losses, and a 2.31 ERA of 55 strikeouts in 11 games (62⅓ innings), but some were concerned about the “aging curve.” Based on PTS, the average fastball speed has dropped noticeably from 145.8km in 2021 to 143.3km in 2022. It’s not surprising considering the age of mid-30s.
During the spring camp in Guam in February, Straily said, “I can’t be young anymore, but I don’t want to think I can’t because I’m old,” but I was anxious from the beginning of the season. In April, he started with two losses and a 5.82 ERA without winning five games. In May, he briefly rebounded with two wins and two losses in four games and a 2.31 ERA, but has been fluctuating since June with one win and one loss and a 4.84 ERA in seven games.
The average fastball speed was 143.0km, a little lower than last year, and it was easily caught by batters’ bats. The main weapon slider didn’t work either. As it became difficult to play due to ball power, there were more games to avoid out of the zone. Both walks (3.18 → 4.15) per nine innings and the number of pitches (16.7 → 18.2) per inning increased rapidly, resulting in poor ability to play in innings.
Of the 16 games this season, only five played more than six innings. It was five games that went down before completing the fifth inning. On the day of Straily’s release, Lotte’s bullpen burden was high. After the first game in June, Lotte finally prepared to replace it as it rarely crossed the wall of six innings and showed clear limitations. Straily’s final performance this year is 3 wins and 5 losses in 16 games (80⅓ innings) with a 4.37 ERA and 70 strikeouts.
Will Wilkerson, a Japanese Experience, Protect Lotte’s 5th Round
After sending Straily, Lotte chose Aaron Wilkerson. Born in 1989, one year younger than Straily, he gained major league experience with the Milwaukee Brewers for three years from 2017 to 2019. In three seasons, he has eight games (3 starts, 35⅓ innings) with one win and one loss, with a 6.88 ERA and 28 strikeouts. He spent most of his career in the minor leagues. Wilkerson, who recorded 29 wins, 22 losses, and a 4.01 strikeout 431 ERA in 89 games (73 starts, 410⅓ innings) based on Triple-A, also played in Japan last year wearing a Hanshin uniform.
He started all 14 games (70⅔ innings) with 5 wins, 5 losses, and a 4.08 ERA with 54 strikeouts. Until May, he had a surprise performance with four wins, two losses, and a 1.45 ERA in seven games. It was impressive enough to be selected as the monthly MVP in May of the Central League, but since June, it has plunged to one win, three losses, and an 8.23 ERA in seven games. He had difficulty controlling his condition, such as being confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 at the end of the season, and was excluded from the postseason entry and returned to the U.S. at the end of the season. As he failed to renew his contract with Hanshin, he continued his career with the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators under the Oakland Athletics this year.
He was sluggish with three wins, two losses and a 6.51 ERA in 14 Triple-A games (6 starts, 47 innings). Considering that it is a high-pitched and low-pitched league, it is a disappointing record, but the performance in Japan last year was not bad, and it is a low-risk option even if the high point is not high among the levels that can be brought as a substitute. The Lotte club said, “Wilkerson highly evaluated the adaptability of Asian baseball gained from his experience in Japanese professional baseball due to his excellent fastball movement and strength in breaking ball control.”
He pitched as the second pitcher against the El Paso Chihuahas (under the San Diego Padres) on the 6th, the most recent Triple-A appearance, and blocked two hits, one walk, five strikeouts in 5⅔ innings. He used sliders (26), curves (11), and four-seam fastball (148.9km) with an average of 91.2 miles (146.8km). Although he is not a pitcher who plays fastballs, he showed faster speed than Straily this year.
Wilkerson, who signed a $350,000 (annual salary of $250,000 and option of $100,000), said, “I am grateful to the club for giving me a chance to take on new challenges in the KBO League. I am very proud and happy to be part of Lotte Giants, the most popular club in the league. I am also looking forward to my career in Korea because I have adapted well to Asian culture through my experience in Japan. “I will try to win many games to contribute to the team’s victory,” he said. Wilkerson will arrive in Korea on the 19th and decide the date of his appearance after the necessary administrative procedures and condition adjustment.
Meanwhile, Goodrum, who signed an annual salary of $400,000 with Lotte as a substitute for Rex, joined the team on the 16th. He is expected to be able to play right away in the second half of the season, which begins on the 21st. “I heard that Lotte is the club with the best fans,” said Koo, who has number 4. “I will do my best for Lotte’s third trophy,” he said.