First baseman Dae-ho Lee has declined his 2016 player option with the Fukuoka SoftBak Hawks, he announced (story via Jee-ho Yoo of Yonhap News). He added that he intends to pursue a contract with a major league organization.
The South Korean has played in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league since 2012. He moved there after more than a decade in the Korean Baseball Organization.
Unlike many other international players covered here at MLBTR, Lee will be looking to make the jump at the (relatively) advanced age of 33. That isn’t an unprecedented number, but it obviously limits his earning capacity and will reduce the number of teams that have interest in guaranteeing him money.
Lee has shown plenty with his right-handed bat, though, swatting 31 home runs and posting a .282/.364/.524 slash last year in the highly competitive NPB. That was his best overall campaign, but he has been quite consistently productive in Japan’s top league and the KBO before that.
Notably, because he is a free agent, Lee won’t require a posting fee. That eliminates some complications from the process and ought to drop the overall asking price. Presumably, the veteran will be looking first and foremost for opportunity, and it’s easy to imagine a variety of teams rolling the dice if the price is right.
“All baseball players dream of playing in the majors, and I’d like to pursue that dream,” Lee explained in his press conference. “If I can give 100 percent, like I’ve done throughout my career, I don’t think it will be impossible.”