While many teams, including the SF Giants, wait on Shohei Ohtani's decision, another free agent just became available - Jung-Hoo Lee. The 25-year-old star is set to score a nice payday in free agency and checks off a lot of boxes for the Giants.
Jung-Hoo Lee: A Star KBO Outfielder Who Fits Perfectly with the SF Giants
There are reports of contracts ranging from $200 million for Yoshinobu Yamamoto and $600 million for Shohei Ohtani. While San Francisco shouldn’t be counted out for either, Lee comes at a hefty discount. The Korean star is expected to ink a deal in the ballpark of $50 million, which is well within the Giants' risk tolerance.
In a lot of ways, Lee is similar to future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki and stars like Mookie Betts would agree. Lee adds to the aesthetic, donning #51 and taking cuts from the left side. More than this, he makes incredible contact, smacking a consistent .340 over his first seven seasons in the KBO. His worst performance: an impressive .318 — this kid can flat-out hit! Perhaps, he will not record 3,000 hits like Suzuki, but Lee plays a similar style as the longtime outfielder.
Having more walks than strike outs over his career, Lee is an ideal fit at leadoff. As well, having a nickname like "Grandson of the Wind", the base paths shouldn't be an issue. In addition to his speed and knack for contact, Lee's arm is well above average. Not surprisingly, the KBO star has netted five Gold Glove awards in his career.
Lee might fly a bit under the radar this winter while fellow MVPs Cody Bellinger and Ohtani command the spotlight. This isn't true for Farhan Zaidi and members of Giants brass who've been tracking the Korean outfielder since last February. Bellinger, another top option for the Giants in CF, looks to command something in the range of $150-$200 million; the difference of putting up slash lines against MLB pitchers.
It is tough to know exactly how Lee's numbers will translate stateside. There is no doubt that he will continue to offer competitive at-bats and put a lot of balls in play. Though, Lee isn't just a good hitter, he's already one of the greatest in KBO history. Lee's ability to connect baseball to lumber cannot be overstated, with a batting line of .429/.500/.571 at the WBC, it's no surprise he's garnered comparisons to legends like Vladimir Guerrero Sr.
That said, there are some concerns with Lee. The hitting machine is coming off an ankle injury that put him on the shelf for much of 2023. Does this equate to a drop-off in speed and outfield range or will he continue to honor his given nickname? Questions that cannot be answered prior to signing the star but he is expected to be ready by spring training. However, considering age and price tag, acquiring Lee is the risk most worth taking this offseason.