South Korean pitcher Lee Jung-hoo, 25, is expected to sign a big contract after challenging for a spot in Major League Baseball (MLB), according to local reports. On Sept. 9, CBS Sports in the U.S. mentioned Lee in its “10 Things to Watch for in the MLB Stovepipe.
“Lee is young at 25, so he could be in his prime from now on,” CBS Sports said, predicting that he could sign a six-year, $90 million contract with an opt-out after the fourth year. It would be the second-largest contract in Korean major league history.
The highest contract total for a Korean major leaguer is Shin-Soo Choo (now SSG), who signed a seven-year, $130 million deal with Texas in December 2013. Ryu Hyun-jin became a free agent after excelling with the Los Angeles Dodgers and signed a four-year, $80 million deal with Toronto in December 2019.
Lee made his debut in a Nexen uniform as a first round pick in 2017 and is in his seventh year as a professional this season. Before becoming eligible for free agency, Lee tried to make it to MLB through the posting system.
Previously, most Korean players entered the United States through the posting system. In 2013, Ryu Hyun-jin signed a six-year, $36 million contract with the Dodgers through the posting system. Among KBO hitters, Kim Ha-seong (San Diego), who played alongside Lee, received the most lucrative deal. He signed a four-year, $28 million deal with San Diego after the 2020 season.
CBS Sports also predicted Lee’s destination. “The San Francisco Giants are struggling with player availability, and Lee fits the bill,” the outlet said, explaining, “Lee is a middle infielder with good defense and a decent bat, so he’ll be able to play well in San Francisco’s home ballpark, Oracle Park.”
In fact, San Francisco general manager Pete Peltzer visited the country last month to watch Lee’s final game of the regular season.
Lee’s agent, Scott Boras, is also confident. “Nearly half the league has inquired about him,” Boras told reporters in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the owners’ meetings were held, “and I think he’s going to start a K-pop craze in the MLB.”
He dismissed the possibility of another client, Ryu Hyun-jin, heading to South Korea. “There is a lot of interest from big league teams in Ryu,” Boras 사설토토 reportedly told local reporters. There are local reports that a number of MLB teams want to sign Ryu to a short-term deal. MLB.com reported that Ryu could sign a one-year deal worth $8 million (approximately $10.5 billion).