Which Major League Baseball (MLB) team will choose the “genius hitter” Lee Jung-hoo (25, Kiwoom Heroes), who is the KBO’s all-time leader in batting average, will be greatly influenced by the arrival of Cody Bellinger (28), the second-rated slugger in free agency behind Shohei Ohtani.
MLB.com, the official MLB website, quoted MLB Network Insider John Heyman on Saturday as saying that “three teams are leading the pack” for Bellinger: the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, and San Francisco Giants. “I’d be surprised if it was anybody else,” Heyman said.굿모닝토토 도메인
In fact, it’s likely to be one of those three teams.
Bellinger, the 2019 National League (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP), struggled the next three seasons before rebounding this year to hit .307 with 26 home runs, 97 RBI, 95 runs scored and an OPS of .881 in 130 games.
MLB.com put together a ranking of the top 25 free agents heading into the offseason and a brief evaluation, and Bellinger was ranked fourth overall and first among professional hitters.
Bellinger, who signed a one-year, $17.5 million short-term deal with the Cubs after being released by the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, has rebounded this season and is poised for a big contract. He also declined a qualifying offer (QO) from his former club, which gives free agents a one-year contract with an average salary in the top 125 of the highest-paid players.
This season’s QO is worth $20.32 million (26.3 billion won). Bellinger is seeking a multi-year deal worth more than that.
With such a huge contract on the horizon, few teams in need of Bellinger can afford it. With that in mind, Heyman has narrowed the field to three teams. “He initially said the Yankees and Cubs would be in the running, but he doesn’t think the Giants will be ruled out as they explore a variety of possibilities,” the source said.
“You’re going to hear a lot about the Giants (in regards to Bellinger),” Heyman said. “They’re obviously looking to improve the last couple of seasons and Bellinger is a good fit.” “They’re looking at other guys, but they say they want to move up in center. He’s a great center fielder, but he can also play first base, so he gives them some versatility.”
This will have a big impact on Lee’s next move. Typically, free agency is a cascade of moves, starting with the most important players signing after the owners’ meetings. This is because once the most important players at a position are decided, other players’ options change accordingly.
According to MLB.com, Lee is the 13th overall pick in this year’s free agent class and the second-best outfielder in the outfield. The projected contract is for five years and $63 million (KRW 81.5 billion).
In his seven seasons in the KBO, Lee ranks first all-time with a .340 career batting average, and last season he won the batting title with a .349 average, while developing power to hit 23 home runs and win the league MVP. Add in his extremely low swinging strikeout rate, his young age, and his solid center field defense, and you have a player who is highly regarded locally. He missed a lot of games this season due to injury, but he returned at the end of the season, and regardless of his performance this year, he’s already been evaluated by MLB clubs.
San Francisco, the Yankees, and the Seattle Mariners are the most likely destinations, according to the media. The two teams overlap with Bellinger. General manager Brian Cashman has previously said he wants to add two left-handed outfielders. While it’s possible that Bellinger and Jung-Hoo Lee could be acquired at the same time, the cost and other considerations mean that if they don’t land Bellinger, they’re more likely to pursue Jung-Hoo Lee.
San Francisco’s interest is not surprising. President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi has made no secret of his interest in Lee, and the hiring of Bob Melvin as the new manager of the San Diego Padres, where he helped land Ha-Sung Kim, is one of the reasons Lee is likely to end up in San Francisco.
While it hasn’t been specifically mentioned, it’s possible that the Cubs could turn their attention to Lee if they are unsuccessful in retaining Bellinger. Since Lee is considered the next best outfielder after Bellinger in free agency, there’s plenty of room for teams that have Bellinger as their top priority to shift their attention to Lee depending on where he goes.