The Kiwoom Heroes of the Korean Baseabll Organization (KBO) League officially posted outfielder Jung-Hoo Lee for MLB free agency on Monday, and his 30-day negotiation window began at 5 a.m. PT on Tuesday morning.
Lee is a highly-regarded player coming over to the Major League level for his age-25 season with solid abilities both on offense and defense.
Lee made his professional debut as an 18-year-old in 2017 for the Nexen Heroes and went on to hit .324/.395/.417 in 144 games, which earned him Rookie of the Year honors. He also became the first rookie out of high school to appear in every game for a KBO team.
He posted his worst statistical season in 2023, hitting .318/.406/.455 in just 86 games due to an injury.
In 2022, Lee was named the KBO League Most Valuable Player after hitting .349/.421/.575 with 23 home runs, 113 RBI and 85 runs scored across 142 games.
In total, Lee has hit .340/.407/.491 in 884 games, with 2023 representing both his lowest average and on-base plus slugging (.860) during a single season.
Lee also represented South Korea in the World Baseball Classic this past season, where he hit .429/.500/.571 batting line with two doubles, five RBIs and one steal
Defensively, Lee is an above average center fielder and converted to that position after being drafted as an infielder. During his career in the KBO, Lee was honored with five Golden Glove Awards.
He also has solid speed, which he used to swipe 69 stolen bases across his seven seasons.
Lee is expected to sign a multi-year contract with MLB Trade Rumors projecting him for five years and $50 million. However, given his age and skill, it would not be surprising to see him blow past that amount.
As part of the posting process, the MLB club that signs him will owe the Heroes a posting fee, which comes out to 20% of the first $25MM in his contract, 17.5% of the next $25MM, and 15% of any additional salary.
For example, a salary of $50 million would require the signing club to pay a fee of just over $9 million.
Which teams are interested in Jung-Hoo Lee?
According to a report from Jon Heyman of MLB Network, 20 teams have some interst in Lee. The most interested clubs are believed to be the New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and New York Mets.
Lee also makes sense for the Los Angeles Dodgers as they search for a left-handed hitting outfielder, but their sights are currently set on Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
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