Not even Kim Ha-seong (28, San Diego Padres) was this good three years ago. The interest in Lee Jung-hoo (25, Kiwoom Heroes) in the U.S. Major League Baseball (ML) is exploding. A whopping 16 teams have claimed to want to sign him, and that’s just the minimum. With so many big-market teams participating, there are even teams that are interested in Lee but can’t afford him.
“Already, nearly half of the major league teams have asked us about Lee,” said Scott Boras of Scott Boras Corporation, Lee’s American agent, at the Major League Baseball general managers’ meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Sept. 9 (KST).
Major League Baseball’s free agency market opened in earnest on July 7, when seven players, including Shohei Ohtani, 29, received qualifying offers from clubs. Amid the influx of outstanding players such as Ohtani, Cody Bellinger, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Boras, the “master of words,” also began to promote Lee Jung-hoo in earnest.레모나토토 도메인
According to U.S. media outlet The Score, Boras compared Lee to his client Masataka Yoshida, 30, who signed a five-year, $90 million free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox last year. Yoshida has less defense than Lee, but he hits for power and is generally regarded for his ability to make contact. In 140 games in 2023, he hit .289 with 15 home runs, 72 RBIs, 71 runs scored, eight doubles, and an OPS of .783.
“For those of you who don’t know, we brought Yoshida up to the major leagues last year,” Boras said. We knew his contact ability would be at a high level here,” said Boras. “Lee Jung-hoo (similar to Yoshida) has a middle infield premium, can play defense, and has power. I think he’s a player who will bring K-pop to the major leagues.”
Boras was not exaggerating when he said that nearly half of the major league teams wanted Lee as soon as free agency began. Major League Baseball’s official website, MLB. com, The Athletic, and other local media outlets that have expressed interest in Lee are the San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Detroit Tigers, San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees, and Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds, and at least 16 other teams. Of those, Boston, the Cubs, Pittsburgh, Arizona, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati, the Mets, Toronto, Detroit, and San Diego have sent scouts to the Gobble Dome at least once this year. In addition to the teams mentioned here, two more American League teams and one more National League team have visited the Gocheok Dome, making it more than half of the teams that are actually interested in Lee.
The most well-known team is the San Francisco Giants. Looking for a player to fill the center and right outfield spots in their sprawling home of Oracle Park, they’ve listed Lee as one of their top targets, along with Bellinger. The Athletics monitored Lee from spring training through the end of the 2023 season, and were the only one of the 30 major league clubs to send their general manager (Pete Putilla) to Seoul’s Gocheok SkyDome, creating a lot of buzz.
The Athletic reported, “San Francisco thinks Jung-hoo Lee could be the best of all worlds, unless his range is limited after his ankle injury last season,” indicating that the Giants’ interest in Lee was not a lie.
It’s also encouraging to see that other big-market teams such as the New York Yankees and Boston have joined the race for Lee. The Athletic wrote about the Yankees’ interest in Lee and Yamamoto, “Lee had his 2023 season cut short by an ankle injury, but major league teams are interested in his solid outfield defense and career-long record of striking out more than walking. His left-handed swing, coupled with Yankee Stadium’s short distance from home to the right field fence, should lead to more home runs,” he said, referring to him as a candidate for an Aaron Judge jersey.
NESN, a Boston-area outlet, said, “Remember Yoshida last winter? People said that if you take Yoshida and add above-average defense, that’s what you get. The 25-year-old South Korean is considered a hitter with no weaknesses, batting .340 with a .407 on-base percentage and .491 slugging percentage. He’ll face a lot of scrutiny this offseason, but if the Red Sox are looking to move any of their existing outfielders, he could be worth a look.”
The interest in Lee has been so high that some teams have given up on him early. “With Michael A. Taylor a free agent and Byron Buxton’s health in question, adding a center fielder is definitely a ‘must-do’ for Minnesota. “But unless the team cuts payroll in other ways, Minnesota only has money left to add a mediocre bat, which means a center fielder won’t be a high-end option like Lee or Bellinger. “That means Minnesota’s center field signings won’t be high-end options like Lee or Bellinger, which means Minnesota will likely settle for a subpar Taylor until then, hoping a prospect like Austin Martin can challenge for the role.