Japanese media outlets have expressed interest in Kiwoom Heroes outfielder Lee Jung-hoo’s application for a Major League post. Describing Lee as a “versatile player,” they said he is highly regarded in the U.S. free agency market.
Japanese media outlet SporNichi Annex quoted a report from MLB Trade Rumors, which covers information on major league player transfers, as saying, “Lee Jung-hoo, who is aiming to make it to the major leagues, is expected to apply for a posting in early December and become a negotiable player (with major league clubs).”
The KBO said in an official press release later in the day, “At the request of the Kiwoom Heroes, we have requested the MLB Secretariat to post Lee Jung-hoo to 30 major league clubs.”
The request was made nine days after the MLB office requested the KBO to check the identities of Lee Jung-hoo and Ko Woo-seok on the 15th.
Major League Baseball’s 30 clubs will be able to negotiate with Lee from 8 a.m. ET the day after Major League Baseball announces the posting until 5 p.m. ET on the 30th day.
The club that signs Lee must pay the KIUM Heroes the transfer fee in accordance with the Korea-U.S. Player Contract Agreement. If Lee does not sign with a big league team by the expiration date of the negotiations, his posting will be terminated. In this case, Lee will not be posted until November 1 of the following year and will have to play in the KBO for Kiwoom in the 2024 season.
However, it is likely that Lee will play in the Major Leagues next year. Not only local media in the U.S., but also MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, has been paying attention to Lee’s move.굿모닝토토
MLB.com recently said, “I don’t know how Lee will use his talent (in the major leagues), but his potential may be higher than other hitters except for Shohei Ohtani.” The site praised Lee highly.
Another American sports media outlet, ESPN, hailed Lee as “the most talented Korean beast since Shin-Soo Choo.” The New York Post also reported on the 24th, “The New York Yankees have inquired about the Korean center fielder, who is only 25 years old, and there are 20 teams chasing him,” predicting that there will be a battle to sign him.
“Lee is a versatile player who is highly regarded for his accurate hitting as well as his outfield defense,” said ‘Sporting Annex’. “In March of this year, he played in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) for South Korea. He is also popular with female fans due to his handsome appearance.”
“Although Lee hasn’t played a game since August due to an ankle injury late in the season, he won the batting title for two consecutive years in 2021 and 2022,” said SporNichi Annex. “Lee is also known as the son of Lee Jong-beom, who once played for the Junichi Dragons.”
Lee joined the Kiwoom Heroes as a first-round pick out of Hwimun High School in 2017 and has been the team’s starting outfielder since his rookie year, appearing in all 144 regular-season games. He batted .324 (179-for-552) with two home runs, 47 RBIs, 12 doubles, and an OSP of 0.812 and was named Rookie of the Year.
Lee continued to improve each year. In 2021, he hit .360 (167-for-464) with seven home runs, 84 RBI, 10 doubles, and an OPS of 0.959, setting career highs in every major statistic except home runs and stolen bases. In winning the batting title, he joined his father Lee Jong-beom (1994 Hae-tae, batting .393) as the first father-son batting champions in Korean-American baseball.
Lee became the KBO’s top star in the 2022 season. He dominated the league with a .349 (193-for-553) batting average, 23 home runs, 113 RBIs, five doubles, and a .996 OPS, winning the batting title for the second straight year and his first regular season MVP award.
Lee suffered an ankle injury at the start of the second half of this season’s regular season, and his career ended prematurely in 2024. Lee’s future is a major concern for the Stobrig as he was granted an early entry into the Major League Baseball through the posting system by Kiwoom after the 2022 season.
Kiwoom has previously sent three players to the United States through the posting system. Kang Jung-ho joined the Pittsburgh Pirates after the 2014 season, Park Byung-ho joined the Minnesota Twins after the 2015 season, and Kim Ha-seong joined the San Diego Padres after the 2020 season.
Japan is also keeping a close eye on Lee, who has represented South Korea in four international tournaments: the 2017 Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC), the 2019 WBSC Premier12, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (to be held in 2021), and the 2023 WBC.
Lee has shown a strong hand against Japanese baseball, hitting a double off Japan’s ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto in the semifinals against Japan at the Tokyo Olympics and a single off Darvish Yu at the WBC in March of this year.
“According to ‘MLB Trade Rumors,’ there are up to 20 teams interested in signing Lee, including the San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees, and San Diego Padres,” said ‘Sports Illustrated,’ adding, “A five-year, $50 million (approximately 65.3 billion won) contract is expected.”
Lee was in attendance at Game 5 of the Korean Series between the LG Twins and KT Wiz at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on April 13. He watched the game with his close senior Kim Ha-sung. However, he politely declined our interview request. It is understood that he wanted to avoid talking about his contract before publishing.