KBO star gets green light to be posted after next season

January 2nd, 2023
Photo courtesy KBO

If you thought this winter's free agency was wild, with stars like Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Jacob deGrom all changing teams, get ready for next winter. Not only could Rafael Devers, Manny Machado and Shohei Ohtani all be on the market, but Korea Baseball Organization superstar Jung-hoo Lee is also set to be in the fold.

The Kiwoom Heroes, whom Lee has played for since 2017, announced on Monday that they will post their superstar after he completes a full KBO season, his seventh overall. 

"After some internal discussions, we agreed to respect the player's intent to play in Major League Baseball," the Heroes said in a statement. "We will provide whatever support necessary for the player."

Lee -- nicknamed "Grandson of the Wind" because his father is KBO legend Jong-beom Lee, who was nicknamed "Son of the Wind" -- won the KBO MVP Award after slashing .349/.421/.575 with 23 homers and 113 RBIs for the Kiwoom Heroes. So, it was big news when he told the Heroes on Dec. 19 of his interest in being posted "during a visit to the team's office at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul," the Yonhap News Agency reported.

"The team has been giving me so much support since I was a rookie, and I was able to start dreaming about playing overseas because the team has helped me grow as a player," Lee said in a statement released by the club. "First and foremost, I will concentrate on the upcoming season. I will put aside personal ambitions and try to help the team win the Korean Series."

Known as the best pure hitter in the KBO, Lee struck out just 32 times in 627 plate appearances last season, while drawing 66 walks. He also holds the record for highest career batting average (.342) among all batters in KBO history with at least 3,000 plate appearances. That combination of power, contact ability and plate discipline could help him make the transition to the Majors, where other KBO batters have suffered when facing higher velocity from big league pitchers.

If you liked Vladimir Guerrero's ability to hit a baseball anywhere it was thrown, you're going to love Lee:

You may be able to see Lee at a big league stadium before 2024, though. Rosters won't be finalized until later this winter, but the 2020 Olympian is expected to play for Korea at this spring's World Baseball Classic. Korea will begin the tournament in Pool B in Tokyo, but will play in Miami should it advance to the semifinals.