Slugger Dae-ho Lee has decided to return to his native Korea, according to Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency (Twitter links). Lee, who is represented by MVP Sports Group, will receive a $12.9MM guarantee over four years from his original professional team, the Lotte Giants. That represents a record contract for the Korea Baseball Organization.
Lee, 34, came to the majors last year after joining the Mariners on a minor-league deal. He made the roster and ultimately provided the organization with 14 long balls and a .253/.312/.428 batting line over 317 plate appearances.
While that represented a solid effort for a player transitioning to the majors at this late stage of his career, there are obviously some limitations. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the right-handed hitter showed better when facing lefties. And though Lee drew roughly average ratings for his work in the field, he’s limited to first base or a DH hole.
Though the Mariners had some interest in a reunion at one time, it never seemed that he’d be in line for more than part-time duty there or elsewhere in the majors. And the chance to play regularly was a significant factor, Lee said earlier in the offseason.
Before making his way to Seattle, Lee played in both Korea and Japan for 15 seasons. He starred with Lotte for most of that stretch, seemingly capping his tenure there with a pair of stellar, 1.000+ OPS campaigns in 2010 and 2011. From there, Lee went on to a productive four-year stint in the NPB, where he combined power and plate discipline.
While there was no doubt some interest from MLB organizations and NPB clubs, Lee will instead return to the place where he first made his name. It helps, no doubt, that he’ll land such a significant contract; per Yoo, it’s over $4MM higher than any prior KBO deal.