With Shohei Ohtani (29, Los Angeles Dodgers) looking for a destination, contract discussions among Major League Baseball’s (MLB) back-end free agents are in full swing.
The name of outfielder Lee Jung-hoo (25) is also being bandied about. Some media outlets have speculated that the Toronto Blue Jays, who failed to sign Ohtani, could enter the race for Lee.
In an article titled “What the Ohtani signing means for other free agents,” The Athletic listed 10 players affected by the Ohtani signing.
Tying Lee and Japanese pitcher Imanaga Shota together, the outlet analyzed that “some teams are more likely to pursue Korean and Japanese players because they are more likely to succeed,” and that “teams that were interested in signing Ohtani a decade ago will be interested in Lee or Imanaga.”
The idea is that Ohtani’s success and big contract has had a positive effect on Asian players coming to the United States.
Yahoo Sports also mentioned Lee when looking at the upcoming free agency market.
“The San Diego Padres would have to spend more than they did to acquire Kim Ha-Sung to land him,” the outlet wrote, “Kim did a great job of erasing the uncertainty of players coming out of the KBO.”
“Lee could be a good alternative for a team that failed to land Cody Bellinger, and it will be interesting to see if Lee can command more than $15 million per year.”
Local media also reported that Lee has emerged as a target for teams that failed to land Ohtani.
“Toronto tried and failed to sign Ohtani,” Forbes said, adding that “Toronto is focusing on bolstering its batting order and Bellinger or Lee could be next.”
There are no shortage of MLB teams that have Lee on their shopping lists. Kim’s former team San Diego, the San Francisco Giants, and the New York Mets are all reportedly in the running. If Toronto joins the fray, Lee’s price tag could skyrocket.
Lee, who played for the Kiwoom Heroes in the KBO until the 2023 season, is seeking to enter the MLB through the posting system with Kiwoom’s permission.
He is free to negotiate with all 30 MLB teams until 7 a.m. on the 4th of next month.