As interest in Major League Baseball’s (MLB) “biggest free agent” Shohei Ohtani heats up, there are reports that the Toronto Blue Jays will target Lee Jung-hoo if they fail to sign him.
On Aug. 8 (KST), American media outlet ESPN speculated on how the free agency market could play out depending on which team Ohtani signs with. ESPN analyzed the impact on Toronto, the Dodgers, the Angels, the Chicago Cubs, the Boston Red Sox, and the New York Mets, assuming Ohtani signs with one of the three teams.레모나토토 도메인
According to ESPN, if Ohtani stays with the Angels, Toronto could be in the running for Lee. Toronto, which is currently looking to bolster its batting lineup, is one of the teams actively interested in Ohtani.
“The competition for Lee is heating up. It is expected that Lee will sign a contract that surpasses the five-year, $90 million contract that Masataka Yoshida signed with Boston last year.”
“The talented Lee is an unquestioned center fielder. He can platoon with Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the top of the order. Toronto would be a better team with him than they are now.”
ESPN also raised the possibility that the Cubs could be linked to Jung-Hoo Lee if Ohtani ends up in Toronto. “Bringing Bellinger back would be the first scenario for the Cubs, but they may feel they’d be better off keeping Matt Chapman because of the way the team is set up,” the outlet said, adding that Michael Taylor, Adam Duvall, Kevin Kiermaier and Harrison Beyer could be options in the outfield, but Lee could be a better fit.”
Lee, who joined the Nexen (now Kiwoom) Heroes in the first round in 2017, has played in the KBO for seven seasons and has developed into one of the league’s best hitters, batting .340 with 65 home runs and 515 RBIs in 884 games, 3476 at-bats and 1181 hits. Last year, he also showed off his long ball power by blasting 23 home runs.
Starting with the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) 2017, Lee has also proven himself on the international stage at the Asian Games, Premier 12, World Baseball Classic (WBC), and Olympics. Naturally, scouts were drawn to him.
Lee was injured in the middle of the season and only played 86 games. He was sidelined for more than two months. It was the first time in his professional career that he hadn’t played more than 100 games. However, even during his time on the sidelines, the interest in the U.S. was high, and the injury wasn’t a major concern.
As the end of the season approached, several teams began to show interest, with the San Francisco Giants leading the way in the ‘Lee Jung-hoo signing’. General manager Pete Putilla even traveled to Korea to see the player in person.
As time went on, the interest of the American media also increased. Last month, American media outlet CBS Sports predicted Lee’s move to San Francisco, saying, “Lee will have the right to exercise an opt-out after the fourth year of a six-year, $90 million (approx. 11.8 billion won) contract,” while ESPN predicted that Lee would sign a five-year, $63 million (approx. 830 billion won) contract with an average annual salary of $12.5 million (approx. 16.5 billion won).
In addition, US sports publication The Athletic estimated Lee’s contract to be worth $56 million (approximately KRW 73.9 billion) over four years, and the New York Post noted that “there are more than 20 teams in the running for Lee.”
The New York Yankees were one of the teams that considered signing him, and now have three outfielders in Alex Verdugo, Juan Soto, and Trent Grisham via trade. With San Francisco and the New York Mets still in the mix, it remains to be seen how things play out.