KBO star Lee Jung-hoo, 25, is already being touted as the next big thing in the major league offseason.
Local media outlets have put Lee on the target list of major clubs, giving him positive reviews, and the competition for his signature is expected to intensify. The San Diego Padres were the first to be mentioned recently.
Major League Baseball Trade Rumors (MLBTR) reported on the 11th of this month that ‘Lee Jung-hoo’s season was cut short due to ankle surgery, but he will be posted to the major leagues this winter,’ and that ‘the Padres, who have traditionally been aggressive in the overseas market, are in an advantageous position to sign Lee Jung-hoo, a close friend and teammate of Kim Ha-sung.
San Diego, where Kim has established himself as a starter, may be the best fit for Lee to get up to speed in an unfamiliar league. However, we need to look at the outfield situation in San Diego. Left fielder Juan Soto, center fielder Trent Grisham, and right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr. make up San Diego’s outfield lineup. Soto and Tatis are self-explanatory staples, while Lee is a viable alternative to Grisham, who has a weak bat.
Another outlet, The Athletic, has named the New York Yankees as a possible destination for Lee. In an article titled “Cody Bellinger? Mike Trout? Who’s the Yankees’ 2024 center fielder with Jason Dominguez out?” the publication mentioned Lee as a possible candidate.
Dominguez is the Yankees’ top center fielder and recently suffered an elbow injury that required surgery and will keep him out for the first half of next year.
Chris Kirschner, who wrote the article, said, “KBO star Lee Jung-hoo will be designated for assignment by the Kiwoom Heroes this offseason. The 25-year-old was named MVP last year and had an OPS of .863 this season before suffering a left ankle injury.” “If the Yankees are looking to prioritize a contact-oriented hitter, Lee would be a very attractive option,” said Kerner.
It’s no secret that Lee’s strength is his ability to hit pitches in the zone. Fangraphs highlighted this earlier this year when they ranked him as the No. 4 international prospect 바카라사이트.
Lee has a career batting average of .340, which ranks first all-time in the KBO. While he hasn’t had a full plate appearance this year, he’s hit over 100 home runs in three straight seasons and has 1,081 career hits. Most notable is his strikeout rate. His career strikeout rate is 7.70%. Last year, when he won the MVP, it was 5.10%, and this season, despite being out of form, it was 5.96%.
That’s similar to the 5.87% of Luis Arajuez of the Miami Marlins, who tried and failed to hit .400 this year. The lowest strikeout rates among Yankees hitters this year are Jose Trevino at 13.1% and Glavier Torres at 14.3% among hitters with more than a regulation at-bat. There is no style like Lee’s.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the Yankees will make Lee their top target. Kershuner believes the Yankees could pursue Cody Bellinger of the Chicago Cubs in free agency or Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels via trade.
However, Bellinger is likely to command a price tag of $200 million or more, which would be too much for the Yankees. The Yankees already have three “$300 million” players in Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole, and Aaron Judge. What’s more, Bellinger has a history of struggling with injuries after winning the NL MVP in 2019. It’s hard to imagine he’s fully recovered.
The same goes for Trout. Trout won his third AL MVP award in 2019, but has been plagued by injuries every year since 2021 and hasn’t had a regular season plate appearance in three years. In other words, Bellinger and Trout are not good candidates for the Yankees because of their high price tags and injury risks, according to Kershner.
Kershner writes, “If Bellinger and Trout aren’t two stars, there’s not a lot of middle infield options in free agency. Harrison Bader, who was claimed off waivers a few weeks ago, is now with the Cincinnati Reds and could find a multi-year deal, but it would be difficult if the Yankees offered him a one-year deal,” he said.