Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) star outfielder Jung Hoo Lee has been posted by his team, the Kiwoom Heroes, on Monday. The announcement will open up a 30-day window where he could negotiate with MLB clubs, which will begin on Tuesday.
Lee is a target of both the Mets and Yankees, per multiple reports, who are looking for ways to bolster their outfield as the MLB Winter Meetings begin down in Nashville.
The 25-year-old Japan native is a left-handed bat who doesn’t possess an abundance of power — he hit a career-high 23 home runs in 2022, but has recorded seven or fewer round-trippers in five of his first seven professional seasons — but is a pure hitter who could provide a top-of-the-lineup presence in the majors.
He possesses a career .340 average and .407 on-base percentage (.898 OPS) while boasting a 162-game average of 94 RBI. While last season was limited to just 86 games by injury, he won the KBO MVP by slashing .349/.421/.575 (.996 OPS) with those 23 home runs and 113 RBI.
Lee also possesses a solid glove, though there are concerns about how effective a center fielder he could be in the majors — the same kind of concerns that will emerge with his lack of consistent power at the plate. After all, the KBO projects closer to the talent level in Double-A, meaning there could be some time needed to ramp him up to life in the big leagues.
The Mets currently have two-thirds of their outfield set, though specific positions could obviously change. Starling Marte is healthy and the hope from the organization is that he can recreate his 2022 All-Star campaign. Brandon Nimmo has made defensive strides in center field and posted a career-high 24 home runs last season, but he could shift to a corner-outfield spot if necessary. However, the easiest move for Lee would be to slot him into left field while he acclimated.
As for the Yankees, their outfield situation appears to be in flux outside of Aaron Judge in right field. Estevan Florial and Everson Pereira should compete for the center and left-field jobs with Jasson Dominguez’s full-time arrival on the horizon after he recovers from Tommy John surgery undergone in September. Lee provides another tantalizing talent to add to the mix.
Both the Mets and Yankees seem heavily involved in the international markets this winter. Both clubs have also been linked with NPB ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto while the Mets are also believed to be in on southpaw Shota Imanaga.
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