Will the Toronto Blue Jays recruit Lee Jeong-hoo (25) from Kiwoom Heroes as the third Korean player in the club’s history?
Lee Jeong-hoo, who won five batting awards (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, RBI, and most hits) and the league MVP, recorded a batting average of .349 (193 hits in 553 at-bats), 23 home runs, 113 RBI, and an OPS of .996 in 142 games last season. He is one of the leading hitters representing the KBO League. This season, when he announced his entry into the major leagues, the season ended early due to injury, but he achieved decent results with a batting average of .318 (105 hits in 330 at-bats), 6 home runs, 45 RBIs, and an OPS of .861 in 86 games.
The interest of major league clubs in Lee Jung-hoo is hotter than expected. Major league scouts have been watching Lee Jeong-hoo’s every move since spring training, and in the final home game, despite Lee being able to make only one at-bat due to an injury, San Francisco general manager Pete Putilla personally visited the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul to check on Lee Jeong-hoo. 굿모닝토토
Toronto, where Ryu Hyun-jin played for the past four years, is also a team that could be a candidate for Lee Jung-hoo. Toronto, which recruited Oh Seung-hwan in 2018 and Ryu Hyun-jin in 2020, is a relatively active team in recruiting Asian players. Additionally, Kevin Kiermaier, who played as the starting center fielder this season, is eligible for free agency, so there is a need to reinforce the center fielder. Kiermaier won the Gold Glove three times.
The American media Jay’s Journal reported on the 25th (Korean time), “Sportsnet reporter Ben Nicholson-Smith talked about a player Toronto is interested in on a podcast. He mainly mentioned Isaiah Kiner-Falefa and Ahmed Rosario. He then additionally mentioned other players, including Jaymer Candelario, Cody Bellinger, and Jeong-hoo Lee.”
Reporter Nicholson-Smith predicted that Toronto would actively recruit players, saying, “There is not a single free agent player that Toronto cannot handle.” He emphasized that Bellinger could be given a seven-year contract. However, the Jays Journal took a negative view, saying, “Giving Bellinger a seven-year contract could increase Toronto’s risk.”
Unlike Bellinger, who is expected to receive a large contract, Lee Jeong-hoo is a player who can be recruited for a relatively small amount. Japanese batters who recently moved to the major league, Seiya Suzuki in 2022 (Cubs, 5 years, $85 million) and Masataka Yoshida this year (Boston, 5 years, $90 million) both signed larger-than-expected contracts, but Lee Jeong-hoo, who played in the KBO league, It is highly likely that a contract will be made on a smaller scale than these.
In addition to Toronto, San Francisco, the Yankees, and San Diego are known to be interested in Lee Jung-hoo. There is great interest and anticipation among fans about which team Lee Jung-hoo, who is receiving love calls from major league clubs, will wear and play for next year.