Hawaii’s Kolten Wong embraces free agency knowing ‘there are other teams out there that really respect me’

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Kolten Wong

Less than a week after the St. Louis Cardinals declined Hilo’s Kolten Wong’s 2021 contract option, making him a free agent, the second baseman won his second straight Rawlings Gold Glove award on Tuesday.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic which condensed the season, finalists and winners were determined via sabermetrics, without a voting component featuring managers and coaches.

Wong led qualifying NL second basemen in defensive runs saved (6), defensive WAR (4.5), ultimate zone rating (7.5), double plays turned (29) and double plays started (14) in 2020.

The victory, according to the former University of Hawaii All-American provides confidence as he fully embraces being on the open market for the first time in his career.

“Honestly, looking back at my time with the Cardinals, I gave it everything I had. I left everything on the field. I really wanted to win a World Series, just didn’t happen. After this, being let go, it opens my eyes to that there are other teams out there that really respect me, that want me to be a part of their team, and help them grow,” Wong told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello on Tuesday night.

“In the later stages of my career that what I want to do to be that guy to show these kids how to play the right way. How to win championships, how to get to the playoffs, how to play in the playoffs. I hope the next team that I play for can see that.”

The Cardinals declined Wong’s $12.5 million option for 2021 as the team braces for a reduced payroll without knowing when fans will be allowed back in Busch Stadium. The team has not publicly ruled out trying to bring him back, but it would appear Wong will have suitors on the free agent market and did not indicate that he was looking to return to the Red Birds.

“We’ve had countless talks about how managers have kind of done this and done that. I just want to go in there and play the game I know how to play and have fun playing it. I got the opportunity with Mike Shildt the last couple of years, so this was definitely a shocking situation for me. Just to have a manager that knows I’m going to play the game as hard as I can the right way. Every single day I’m going to show up ready to play. I hope someone sees that and gives me the chance,” added Wong.

In regards to a timetable to making a decision, Wong indicated that he would like to make visits to interested clubs and isn’t intending to rush any part of the free agent experience.

“I’m not in a rush. I’ve already had conversations with teams already so I know I’ll have a job next year,” said Wong from his native Hilo, Hawaii. “It’s one of those things that I’m just trying to find the right fit and who wants me to be a part of their team. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m excited for that next opportunity to be a veteran to show I can lead a team to the playoffs. I hope to show these young kids coming up how to do it. I’ve been through it. I’ve been through the trenches. I’ve been up and down. I’ve had good and bad in my career, so to get this next opportunity to help these kids make it a little easier. That’s my next calling. I’m excited for the opportunity.”

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