While most of the attention currently is on the Yoshinobu Yamamoto sweepstakes, the San Francisco Giants' primary concern going into the 2024 season is their lack of impact players on offense. The Giants did most of their damage last season manufacturing runs and getting a bit lucky. That strategy's effectiveness waned considerably down the stretch en route to missing the playoffs yet again.
Unfortunately, the problem with this free agent class is that there were very few position players that fit the bill for the Giants. Shohei Ohtani would have obviously been awesome, but he signed with LA. Cody Bellinger had a nice bounceback season with the Cubs and may still be on the table, but his track record is spotty, especially given how much money he is asking for. Matt Chapman is a great defender, but his bat often leaves something to be desired.
The Giants, seeing the bleak free agent class, decided on Tuesday evening to think outside the box a bit and gave South Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee a six year, $113 million deal.
SF Giants sign Jung Hoo Lee to hopefully give their offense a boost
The track record of hitters coming over from Japan or South Korea to MLB is a bit of a mixed bag, but the 25-year-old Lee has a lot going for him. While he isn't a masher, he is an excellent outfield defender, can really run, and slashed .340/.407/.491 for his career in the Korea Baseball Organization. His KBO team, the Kiwoom Heroes, will receive $18.725 million as a transfer fee, assuming the reported contract details remain true.
While San Francisco really could use a hitter that they can plug in the middle of their lineup, signing Lee is a solid start to turning the offense around. Assuming he is fully recovered from breaking his ankle last year, he should put the ball in play a ton and create some havoc on the basepaths. Given the free agent options available, the Giants could do a lot worse here.
$113 million isn't a small amount of money, but the deal shouldn't preclude the Giants from continuing to go after Yamamoto or any other top free agent this offseason. As we have seen the last couple of years, Farhan Zaidi has money burning a hole in his pocket and probably needs to have a successful offseason in order to keep his job. Signing Lee is a step in the right direction, but more work needs to be done.