South Korean Baseball Player Lee Dae Ho to Sign with Seattle Mariners
John Kim, Feb. 3, 2016, 9:38 a.m.
South Korean free agent slugger Lee Dae-ho has agreed to a deal with the Seattle Mariners, a local report claimed on Wednesday. Lee's South Korean agency, Montis Sports Management Group, wasn't immediately able to confirm the report by major league television analyst Min Hoon-ki. Citing a source privy to Lee's contract talks, Min wrote in his column on the portal site Daum that the Lee had agreed to a one-year contract worth up to US$4 million with incentives. Min added Lee will undergo his physical on Thursday and will return to South Korea the following day.
Lee is represented by MVP Sports Group in the United States. He had been training in Arizona with his former Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club, Lotte Giants, since Jan. 4. Lee had initially planned to come back home last Friday, but pushed back the trip to continue his contract talks with unidentified big league clubs.
If Lee's deal is confirmed, the 33-year-old will be the fourth South Korean to sign with a major league club this offseason, after Park Byung-ho (Minnesota Twins), Kim Hyun-soo (Baltimore Orioles) and Oh Seung-hwan (St. Louis Cardinals). Lee will be in the same American League West division as Texas Rangers' outfielder Choo Shin-soo, his childhood friend in the southern port city of Busan. Both Lee and Choo were high school pitchers.
Lee, first baseman/designated hitter who bats and throws right-handed, is coming off the most productive season of his four-year career in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). He had career-highs of 31 home runs and 98 RBIs in 141 games for the Central League's Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and won the Japan Series MVP as the Hawks knocked out the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in five games for their second straight NPB title.
The former KBO MVP chose not to re-sign with the Hawks so he could pursue his big league dreams. Lee was the only South Korean free agent this offseason to attend the annual MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, in December, and said he met with general managers from four clubs there.
Two other South Korean free agents, outfielder Kim Hyun-soo and relief pitcher Oh Seung-hwan, have signed with the Baltimore Orioles and the St. Louis Cardinals, respectively. Lee's camp had expected to land a contract by mid-January.