Giants finalize 6-yr deal with KBO star Jung Hoo Lee

December 15th, 2023

Days after Shohei Ohtani officially became a Dodger, the Giants finalized their first big splash of the offseason, announcing a six-year, $113 million deal with KBO star Jung Hoo Lee on Thursday. The contract includes an opt-out after the 2027 season.

San Francisco will hold an introductory press conference for Lee on Friday at 4 p.m. ET/1 PT at Oracle Park.

One of Korea’s best players, Lee was posted by the Kiwoom Heroes after seven seasons in the KBO, allowing him to seek an opportunity in Major League Baseball. If he stays in San Francisco for the entire contract, the Giants will also owe the Heroes an $18.825 million posting fee, bringing their total outlay to nearly $132 million.

The 25-year-old outfielder posted an eye-popping .340/.407/.491 slash line during his KBO career, never hitting below .318 in any season. Also considered an above-average defender in center field, Lee has the potential to impact both sides of the ball as he makes the leap to MLB.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi would not comment on the Giants’ reported agreement with Lee when reports of the deal leaked on Tuesday, though he reiterated the club’s desire to improve its athleticism and defense up the middle this offseason.

“We’ve talked about shortstop and center field as being our two priorities,” Zaidi said during a Zoom call with reporters. “At both of those spots, we have in-house options. We have [Mike Yastrzemski] out in center field, although we’ve talked about the impact he can bring defensively in right.”

The Giants heavily scouted Lee before he was posted, with general manager Pete Putila traveling to South Korea to attend Lee’s final game with the Heroes in October.

“It was a great trip,” Putila said earlier this month. “He got off six or seven swings in one at-bat, so it was great to see him take those swings. I got to see him take fly balls pregame a few different days. Just to experience the game over there, the excitement, the energy was off the charts.

"It was a really good experience.”

A second-generation star, Lee has followed in his father’s footsteps on the path to baseball stardom. He’s the son of legendary Korean shortstop Jong Beom Lee, known as “Son of the Wind.” (Jung Hoo Lee is nicknamed “Grandson of the Wind” as an homage to his father.)

The younger Lee broke into the KBO at a young age, making his debut with the Heroes as an 18-year-old in 2017, a mere five years after his father played his final KBO season.

Lee’s best season at the plate came in 2022, when he hit .349 with a career-high 23 homers, 113 RBIs and a .996 OPS over 142 games, earning KBO MVP honors. His chance to win a second straight MVP Award was cut short when he sustained a fractured left ankle in July, but the injury isn’t expected to hinder him in the future. 

Prior to the 2023 KBO season, Lee participated in the World Baseball Classic. While Korea didn’t advance past pool play, Lee impressed to the tune of a .429/.500/.571 batting line with two doubles and five RBIs.

Lee’s arrival will further crowd the Giants’ outfield mix, which also includes Yastrzemski, Mitch Haniger, Michael Conforto, Austin Slater, Luis Matos and Wade Meckler.

San Francisco could free up at-bats in the outfield by shifting Haniger and Conforto to the designated hitter slot, though the club could also consider dealing from the group to create more opportunities for younger players.