11:02PM: The KBO officially requested to Major League Baseball that Lee be posted (reporter Jiheon Pae had the news first, and thanks to MyKBO.net’s Dan Kurtz for the update). This doesn’t necessarily speed up the timeline reported by Yoo earlier tonight, as Yoo reiterated that “with the Thanksgiving holiday, the process likely won’t begin in earnest until early December.” Once Lee is posted, his window will only be 30 days, not 45. The change to a 45-day posting period was made last offseason for NPB players, though it appears as though players coming from the KBO League have just the original 30 days to find a contract.
9:42PM: The Kiwoom Heroes gave Jung Hoo Lee’s medical records to KBO League officials yesterday, Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News reports (via X). Between the usual review protocols between both the KBO and then MLB officials, Yoo figures that Lee will be officially posted for Major League teams in early December, factoring in a bit of delay given the Thanksgiving holiday.
That will officially open the floodgates on what is expected to be a brisk market for Lee’s services, with the New York Post’s Jon Heyman reporting that 20 teams are interested in the outfielder. With this many teams potentially in the hunt, it certainly seems like Lee could match or exceed MLBTR’s projection of a five-year, $50MM contract, a prediction made due to both Lee’s impressive track record in South Korea and the fact that he is only 25 years old. The Giants, Yankees, and Padres are the teams who have been publicly linked to Lee’s market to date.
While Lee’s expected price tag will be much lower than that of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the two players share some market similarities due to their young age of 25. In theory, both have lots of prime years ahead and perhaps haven’t even reached their peak, whereas many players coming to the majors from Japan or South Korea are already in their late 20’s or into their 30’s by the time they’re posted, or by the time they amass enough service time for full free agency.
Because NPB is seen as a higher caliber of league than the KBO and because Yamamoto is seen as more of a true elite talent, his expected contract will naturally be higher than Lee’s, since some scouts aren’t entirely sold on how Lee’s bat will translate to much power against MLB pitching. Some comps have been made to Masataka Yoshida but with a higher defensive ceiling, even if Lee might not stick in center field. Lee’s platform year was also limited to 86 games due to season-ending ankle surgery, and while he should be healthy for Spring Training, he missed a critical chance to further showcase himself for any doubting evaluators.
In short, there’s plenty of room for variance on the kinds of offers that Lee might get, since there’s bound to be a wide range of opinions within a 20-team field. Some teams might drop out of the running simply because they’ve made other outfield acquisitions in the interim, maybe before Lee’s posting window even opens. Other teams who have a larger presence in international scouting will have more data on Lee, though that perhaps would work either for or against him depending on a club’s opinion.
As per the league posting rules, Lee will have 45 days to sign with a Major League team once his posting period opens. If he can’t land a contract within those 45 days, he’ll return to the Heroes for the 2024 KBO season and have to wait until next winter for another chance at coming to the big leagues. While it seems likely Lee will find an acceptable deal to come to North America, a return to South Korea can’t be entirely ruled out. There could be lingering concerns over his health or perhaps just how he’ll adjust to the majors, or Lee and his agents at the Boras Corporation might not be satisfied with the offers on the table.
The Heroes will receive a posting fee tied to Lee’s eventual contract, with the new MLB club paying this fee on top of what they give to Lee himself. The Heroes will get 20% of the first $25MM of a contract, 17.5% of the next $25MM, and 15% of anything beyond the $50MM threshold. At MLBTR’s projection of a $50MM deal, the Heroes would get a $9.375MM posting fee.