“The starters are complementary.”
When Kiwoom accepted LG’s request to trade Choi Won-tae, it was basically because they couldn’t help but think about the future. It’s not like they’re giving up on the season right now, but realistically, it’s much more important for them to prepare for the post-League era. It’s a trade that balances the present with the future.
Crucially, it’s important to note this comment from Ko Hyung-wook. The team is confident that it can develop its own starting pitchers. For starters, in exchange for LG’s first-round pick in the 2024 rookie draft, Kiwoom gets two picks in the first through third rounds of the upcoming draft. At the very least, the prospect of finding future starting pitching talent here is promising.
There is also an immediate alternative. Even without Choi Won-tae, Kiwoom can maintain a five-star system. They could go back to ace Ahn Woo-jin, Ariel Hurtado, Ian McKinney’s 1-3 starters, and Jeong Chan-heon and Jang Jae-young. Based on their performances this year, neither is quite up to par with Choi Won-tae, but Chung Chan-heon’s experience is a weapon and Jang Jae-young is still worth investing in for his potential.
Hong Won-ki made a comment at the end of the first half that Jang Jae-young might be moved to the bullpen, but the Choi Won-tae trade will likely change that plan. For now, Chung and Jang will continue to be the fourth and fifth starters, making appearances every five or six days.
Jeong is a two-year, $860 million free agent. At the end of this contract, he will be 35 years old. In the long run, Jang Jae-young will be the starter to back up Ahn Woo-jin and the foreign pitchers. Even without the ‘900 million won’ talk, he is a pitcher who should be established within three to four years of joining the team, regardless of the Choi Won-tae trade. However, with the Choi Won-tae trade, he should actually become the homegrown No. 2 after Ahn Woo-jin.
Jang Jae-young got his dream first win this year. His growth has been slower than expected due to his struggles with his pitches. However, it is also true that he is improving little by little. In 10 games, Jang is 1-2 with a 4.11 ERA. He has yet to make his first quality start, but has pitched five or more innings three times.
It’s realistic to start Jang as a five-starter and have a backup five-starter in case he struggles. Second-year college right-hander Joo Seung-woo has been a consistent starter for the second team this season. He is 3-6 with a 5.93 ERA. He was brought up to the first team along with Lee Ju-hyung and Oh Sang-won after the Choi Won-tae trade on May 29.
In any case, Kiwoom has the task of continuing to develop a future homegrown starter with the departure of Choi Won-tae. Jang Jae-young needs to grow into a more established starter. Preferably, they should be able to find a second Ahn Woo-jin. In the end, the development of the secondary team is important. They should also utilize the upcoming rookie draft.