December 21, 2022 13:11
Korean baseball league MVP Lee Jung-hoo of the Kiwoom Heroes featured on MLB.com as a star who "could shake up next winter's free-agent class" on Tuesday.
A day earlier Lee told his club he wants to play in the U.S. Major League Baseball after finishing the next season.
MLB's official website said, "If you thought this winter's free agency was wild… get ready for next winter. Not only could Rafael Devers [of the Boston Red Sox], Manny Machado [of the San Diego Padres ] and Shohei Ohtani [of the Los Angeles Angels] all be on the market, but KBO superstar Jung-hoo Lee just stated his desire to come to the Majors after next season."
Lee gains free agency in 2025, but he can play in overseas leagues after next season through the posting system whereby any of the 30 MLB teams can make a sealed bid on a player. The team offering the highest bid wins exclusive rights to negotiate a deal.
MLB.com described Lee as "the best pure hitter" in the Korean league.
"Lee struck out just 32 times in 627 plate appearances last season, while drawing 66 walks and also holds the record for highest career batting average" of 0.342 in Korean baseball history with "at least 3,000 plate appearances," it said. "That combination of power, contact ability and plate discipline could help him make the transition to the Majors."
Lee has also been named among the "Top Asian League Prospects."
He ranked fifth on the list compiled by American baseball statistics site FanGraph last week, followed by Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida, who recently signed a five-year contract worth US$90 million with the Red Sox.
If Lee performs well in Korea next year, he is likely to surpass Ryu Hyun-jin and Kim Ha-sung, who has been playing in the MLB, in terms of contract size.
Ryu, who currently plays with the Toronto Blue Jays, started his MLB career with the Los Angeles Dodgers with a six-year contract worth $36 million in 2012. Kim signed a four-year deal worth $28 million with the San Diego Padres in 2021.
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