Lee Jung-hoo, who is aiming for a big ML contract, and Bellinger, the “revitalizing MVP,” should be decided to decide Lee Jung-hoo
For Kiwoom Heroes’ Lee Jung-hoo, 25, to land a major league contract, the team will need to determine the fate of free agent center fielder Cody Bellinger, 28.
In 884 career KBO games (3476 hits, 1181 RBIs), Lee is a superstar with 65 home runs, 515 RBIs and an OPS of .898, making him one of the best hitters in Korea. In 142 games last season, Lee batted .344 (193-for-553) with 23 home runs, 113 RBIs and a .996 OPS, winning five batting titles (batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, RBIs and runs scored) and the league MVP.굿모닝토토 주소
After officially declaring for the major leagues in January, Lee struggled with an early season slump and an ankle injury. However, he still managed to put together a solid 86-game season, batting .301 (105-for-330) with six home runs, 45 RBIs, and an .861 OPS, which didn’t change the way major league teams viewed him.
Even before the season ended, Lee was on the radar of many major league clubs. San Francisco general manager Pete Putilla personally traveled to Kodak SkyDome to watch Lee’s final at-bat in the Kiwoom’s final home game of the season. Local media outlets are speculating that Lee could get a big contract worth more than $50 million (KRW 647 million).
However, there is a mountain to climb for Lee to reach the major leagues. Bellinger, who is considered the top center fielder in this free agency class, is the first.
Bellinger won the National League MVP in 2019 after batting .305 (558-for-170) with 47 home runs, 115 RBIs, and a 1.035 OPS in 156 games. However, he began a steady decline, hitting just .211 (106-for-504) with 19 homers, 68 RBIs, and a .654 OPS in 144 games last year.
The Dodgers eventually released Bellinger as a non-tender, and he signed a one-year, $17.5 million deal with the Cubs. With the Cubs, Bellinger rebounded, batting .499 (153-for-49) with 26 homers, 97 RBIs, and an OPS of .881 in 130 games.
Teams known to be interested in Lee include the Yankees, Dodgers, San Diego, and Toronto, in addition to San Francisco, which has actively expressed interest. Most of these teams are in need of infield reinforcements. All of these teams have Bellinger at the top of their list of middle infield needs.
According to the New York Post, “The Yankees need a defensive center fielder who is a left-handed hitter in his prime. They want someone who can hit for average, power, stolen bases, and excellent athleticism. They can afford the big salary,” he said, suggesting that the Yankees could target Bellinger.
Bellinger, who won the National League Gold Glove for center field in 2019, missed out on the Gold Glove this year, but he was just as good defensively and won the Silver Slugger for center field.
According to the New York Post, “The question for teams interested in Bellinger, like the Yankees, is whether he’s had a resurgence comparable to his first four seasons or whether it’s just a one-season bounce. They should also think about the implications of Bellinger being slightly reminiscent of Harrison Vader when he hits the ball hard and consistently,” he said, pointing out the risks of signing Bellinger.
Compared to Lee, however, Bellinger’s risk is relatively low. Lee had a steep rise in the KBO, and while he still has room to grow, it’s unclear if he’ll be able to adapt to the major leagues. Bellinger, on the other hand, has rebounded this year and has a high ceiling, having won the 2019 MVP award. It’s no wonder major league teams are prioritizing Bellinger over Lee.
There are reports that Bellinger will sign a contract worth up to $200 million. Only Shohei Ohtani and Blake Snell are bigger names in free agency than Bellinger, so his destination could be decided sooner than you think. And while Bellinger’s destination will be decided, there will be a period of time after that.