S. Korean slugger Lee Dae-ho to travel to US early Dec. for MLB talks

November 21, 2015
Lee Dae-ho

Lee Dae-ho

TOKYO (Yonhap) — South Korean free agent slugger Lee Dae-ho will depart for the United States early next month in hopes of launching contract talks with big league clubs, his agency said Friday.

Montis Sports Management Group said Lee will travel following the conclusion of the Premier 12 tournament this weekend, and his future will likely be decided after the annual Winter Meetings for 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs from Dec. 7 to 10.

Lee is currently playing for South Korea at the Premier 12, and South Korea is scheduled to play in the final on Saturday at Tokyo Dome. In Thursday’s semifinals against Japan, he delivered a go-ahead two-run single in the top of the ninth to cap off a four-run inning and lift South Korea to a 4-3 win.

Lee, who won the Japan Series MVP this year for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, announced earlier this month he will pursue a big league career. He opted out of the final year of his three-year contract with the Hawks, after batting .500 (8-for-16) with two home runs and eight RBIs to help them beat the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in five games for the second straight Japan Series crown.

Seoul-based Montis, which has teamed up with the U.S.-based MVP Sports Management Group, said “multiple major league clubs” have taken interest in the 33-year-old slugger.

Lee played for the Lotte Giants in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) from 2001 to 2011, and then joined the Orix Buffaloes in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in 2012. He played there for two seasons before moving to the Hawks.

Lee won the KBO’s Triple Crown in 2006 and 2010, and was voted the MVP in the 2010 season when he established career-highs with a .364 batting average, 44 home runs and 133 RBIs.

Lee was the three-time batting champion and two-time home run king in South Korea.

In his first season with the Buffaloes, Lee batted .286/.368/.478 with 24 home runs and 91 RBIs. He matched the home run and RBI totals the following year, while raising his triple slash line to .303/.384/.493.

Last year, his powers numbers dipped to 19 homers and 68 RBIs for the Hawks, though he still hit .300.

This year, Lee set his NPB career-highs with 31 home runs and 98 RBIs in 141 games, and then enjoyed a productive postseason to become the first South Korean to be named the Japan Series MVP.