Lee Jeong-hoo’s MLB future is in doubt, and super-rich owners are joining the race… 내일(5일)부터 드디어 30개 구단과 협상 돌입

The time has finally come for Lee Jung-hoo (25, Kiwoom Heroes) to get his heart racing – and the hearts of Korean baseball fans. Lee Jung-hoo will begin negotiations with 30 teams through the Major League Baseball (MLB) posting system (sealed competitive bidding).

Lee’s original team, the Kiwoom Heroes, announced on Thursday that “Lee’s Major League Baseball posting notice will be made on Dec. 4 (Dec. 5) at 11:00 a.m. ET.” “Accordingly, we will begin full-scale negotiations with 30 major league clubs who wish to sign Lee Jung-hoo for 30 days from the day after the posting notice.”

Kiwoom added, “We agreed to respect Lee’s decision to challenge the major leagues earlier this year and promised to actively support him. On Nov. 22, the team submitted documents to the Korea Baseball Organization, including Lee’s medical records. On November 24, the club requested a public announcement of the posting to the Major League Baseball.”

The Kiwoom Heroes are known for producing many big leaguers since their days as the Nexen Heroes. If Lee’s move to the major leagues is finalized, he will be the fourth player to reach the major leagues through the posting system after Kang Jeong-ho, Park Byung-ho, and Kim Ha-seong. Previously, Kang Jung-ho joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014, Park Byung-ho joined the Minnesota Twins in 2015, and Kim Ha-seong joined the San Diego Padres in 2020.

“We wish Lee the best of luck in his future endeavors as he qualifies for the post and takes on the challenge of a bigger stage,” said Ko Hyung-wook, head coach of the Kiwoom Heroes.

The race to see which team Lee will play for next season in the Major Leagues could be one of the biggest of all time. New York Post reporter John Heyman tweeted the same day that “Major League Baseball is expected to announce Jung-hoo’s posting on the fifth,” according to his personal social media account.

“Korean CF Jung Hoo Lee, a former KBO MVP, is expected to be posted as early as tomorrow. Padres, Giants, Yankees among many teams,” Heyman, who is known for his credibility in Major League Baseball, added.

The ball is now in the hands of the major league clubs. Major League Baseball kicked off its Winter Meetings on Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee. The Winter Meetings bring together officials from all 30 major league clubs and top agents for a lot of conversations. Many things happen here, including free-agent signings of big-name players, multi-year contracts, and trades. The signing of Lee Jung-hoo is also expected to be a topic of discussion at the Winter Meetings.

If posted as scheduled, Lee will be able to negotiate with 30 teams from 8 a.m. ET on Nov. 5 (10 p.m. KST on Nov. 5) until 5 p.m. ET on Nov. 3 (7 a.m. KST on Nov. 4), the 30th day. Earlier, the KBO informed Major League Baseball’s secretariat on March 24 that it would conduct a post on Lee Jung-hoo at the request of his original team, the Kiwoom Heroes. Lee has already traveled to the United States. As the U.S. entered the Thanksgiving holiday, Lee’s posting process was put on hold for a while. However, now that the posting notice is official, the scramble to sign him will begin.

There have already been a number of teams that have been mentioned in the local media. “The New York Yankees, who want the outfielder, are currently filled with doubts and competition,” said the New York Post on March 24. “The Yankees have inquired about Lee, who is only 24 years old. However, there are 20 teams that want to sign him.” That’s a lot more than the number of teams that aren’t interested in him. The New York Yankees continue to be linked to Lee. Aside from former MVP outfielder Aaron Judge, they don’t have a clear-cut starting outfielder. We can envision Aaron Judge in right field and Lee in center field. Of course, free agent Cody Bellinger and Kim’s teammate Juan Soto could also be available, but they might not be.

Other outlets, such as MLB Trade Rumors, have mentioned the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants as possible suitors for Lee. According to MLB Network’s John Morosi, both the Yankees and Giants have expressed interest in Lee. “It’s not surprising that two teams would be interested in Lee, who played in the KBO. The New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants have done scouting work on Lee. He fits their goals for this winter.” On April 4, American media outlet Yahoo Sports, citing MLB trade rumors, predicted that Lee would sign a five-year, $50 million contract.

Of course, we don’t know if all 20 clubs will make an actual offer at this point. There are sure to be some that are merely interested. Still, the fact that so many clubs have been mentioned suggests that the bidding war for Lee is indeed epic. First and foremost, only big clubs are interested in signing Lee. It’s interesting to note that the smaller clubs aren’t even mentioned by name.

Here’s where things start to get a little ominous. The New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, and now the “giant” New York Mets have joined the fray. “The New York Mets have expressed strong interest in Lee as they look to bolster their lineup this offseason,” USA Today reported on Thursday. The New York Mets are led by billionaire owner Steven Cohen, which makes the team even more interesting. In recent years, the Mets have used their deep pockets to invest and bolster their lineup. Last winter, they signed Japan’s Kodai Senga to a five-year, $75 million contract. Senga broke into the big leagues in 2023 with a 12-7 record and 2.98 ERA. The Mets’ outfield consists of left fielder D.J. Stewart, center fielder Brandon Nimmo, and right fielder Starling Marte, which could provide plenty of competition for a starting spot. If the Mets do indeed join the bidding for Lee, his price tag could rise even higher.

All four of these teams are big clubs. They represent the East and West divisions, respectively, and are among the teams that any major leaguer would want to play for. The New York Yankees are the most prestigious franchise in Major League Baseball, having won the World Series a whopping 27 times. The San Francisco Giants led the league in wins in 2021 with 107. Notably, the Giants’ general manager, Pete Putilla, traveled to the Gauchos SkyDome to watch Lee play during the 2023 season. San Diego has recently added superstars like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Xander Bogaerts to its roster, and has pushed the “win now” button on a championship run.

The New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, and New York Mets are all in need of outfielders. Lee is a solid defender in center field, and his bat has more finesse than power. He is also still young at 25 years old, which is a positive factor in negotiations. If a team were to sign him, they would be able to bolster both their offense and defense. One outlet believes that Lee could sign a major league contract for $90 million ($11.7 billion). Furthermore, Lee’s agent is Scott Boras, who has a reputation as a “devil’s agent” among major league clubs. “Nearly half of the major league teams have inquired about Lee,” Boras said at the Major League Baseball General Managers’ Meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, last month. This is a clear indication that the local reports are not just hype.

MLB Trade Rumors reports, “Jung-Hoo Lee was lost for the season in early July due to an ankle injury. However, after three months of rehabilitation, it is not expected to affect his participation in spring training next year. Lee is still a target for other teams. He’s also young for a free agent. There is some disagreement on whether Lee can play center field in the majors. However, his ability to make contact and recognize the strike zone is considered to be excellent.” 캡틴토토
If Lee fetches a high price tag, his original team, the Kiwoom Heroes, could receive a substantial transfer fee. Previously, five players – Ryu Hyun-jin, Kang Jeong-ho, Park Byung-ho, Kim Kwang-hyun, and Kim Ha-seong – reached the major leagues through the posting system. All of them have hit the jackpot, and Lee Jung-hoo is considered to be the highest paid.

According to the Korea-U.S. Player Contract Agreement between the KBO and Major League Baseball, which was revised in 2018, if the guaranteed contract amount agreed to by a Major League Baseball team with a player is $25 million or less, 20 percent of it is paid to the original club. If the amount is more than $25 million but less than $50 million, the transfer fee is determined by adding $5 million, which is 20% of $25 million, and 17.5% of the amount over $25 million. If it exceeds $50 million, the transfer fee will be 20 percent of $25 million plus 17.5 percent of $25 million to $50 million, or $9.37 million, plus 15 percent of the amount over $50 million.

Lee joined the Nexen Heroes (now the Kiwoom Heroes) with the first overall pick in the 2017 rookie draft and performed well in his first year, winning the once-in-a-lifetime Rookie of the Year award. Lee went on to become one of the top players in the KBO League. He won the Golden Glove for five consecutive seasons from 2018 to 2022. In his seven seasons in the KBO, Lee played in 884 games, batting .340 (3476 hits, 1181 runs) with 65 home runs, 515 RBIs, 581 runs scored, 244 doubles, 43 triples, 69 stolen bases, a 0.407 on-base percentage, a 0.491 slugging percentage, and a 0.898 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). In 2022, he had a career-high season, hitting .349 with 23 home runs, 113 RBIs, and an OPS of .996, while winning five batting titles – batting average, hits, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and RBIs. In the end, the MVP was his. Among active players with more than 3,000 career at-bats, Lee leads the KBO in career batting average. This season, he played in 86 games due to injury, batting .318 with six home runs, 45 RBIs, and an OPS of 0.861.

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