Major League Baseball teams, including the New York Yankees, expect to recruit South Korean baseball star Jung Hoo Lee next month. As a talented outfielder, Lee stands out as a potential addition to the Yankees’ roster for the 2024 season. While he may not be as widely discussed as Japanese pitchers Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Shota Imagana, the New York Post reports that around 20 teams show varying degrees of interest in Lee. The San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, and San Francisco Giants are particularly keen on him.
Reports indicate that Lee will be officially available for MLB teams to bid on in early December. This opportunity is open to all 30 MLB teams, allowing them to compete for Lee, who currently plays for the Kiwoom Heroes in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). The cost to secure Yamamoto likely exceeds $200 million, not including the posting fee, but experts believe Lee will be more affordable. MLB Trade Rumors suggests that Lee could secure a contract worth around $50 million over five years.
The Yankees, currently with limited options in their outfield, have Aaron Judge and four younger players, but with Jasson Domínguez likely out for most or all of 2024 due to Tommy John surgery, they have space for a player like Lee. Lee is known for his consistent hitting and strong defensive skills, having played seven years in the KBO.
Lee has been a part of the KBO since he was 18, initially with Nexen before moving to Kiwoom. He has proven himself as a reliable hitter, maintaining an average above .300 each season and holding a career average of .340. While not known for home runs, Lee has shown excellent discipline at the plate, with more walks than strikeouts in the last five seasons. Defensively, he boasts a .992 fielding percentage in the outfield. However, he did miss the latter half of the 2023 season due to ankle surgery.
Once Lee is officially available for MLB teams, there will be a limited window of 30 days for negotiations, shorter than the 45-day period given to players like Yamamoto and Imagana.