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(LEAD) KBO MVP Lee Jung-hoo expresses intent to play in MLB

(ATTN: ADDS details, photos)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Dec. 19 (Yonhap) — The reigning South Korean baseball league MVP Lee Jung-hoo told his club on Monday that he’d like to play in the majors through the posting system after next season.

Lee informed the Kiwoom Heroes of his intent during a visit to the team’s office at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul.

Lee, 24, will become eligible for posting if he plays the full season in 2023 and thereby completes his seventh campaign in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).

Under the posting system, any interested Major League Baseball (MLB) club can negotiate with the posted KBO player during a 30-day window.

And if that player signs a major league contract, his former KBO club will receive a transfer fee of sorts, depending on the guaranteed portion of the contract.

If the guaranteed value of the deal is US$25 million or less, the fee will be 20 percent of the contract. If the contract is worth between $25,000,001 and $50 million, the fee will be 20 percent of the first $25 million, plus 17.5 percent of any amount exceeding that $25 million.

If a player signs for more than $50 million, his former KBO team will receive $9,375,000 and then 15 percent of the amount exceeding $50 million.

Under an agreement between MLB and the KBO, a major league team interested in a South Korean player, professional or amateur, must complete the status check through the league offices. Once MLB requests a status check, the KBO must respond within four business days. In these instances, MLB must not reveal the identity of big league clubs inquiring about the Korean player in question.

The Heroes previously sent three players to MLB through the posting system: shortstop Kang Jung-ho (Pittsburgh Pirates), first baseman Park Byung-ho (Minnesota Twins) and shortstop Kim Ha-seong (San Diego Padres).

By declaring his intent to take his talent to the majors, Lee made official what had been expected for a few years. Widely considered the best pure hitter in the KBO, Lee has attracted major league scouts in recent seasons as the next big KBO star to head to the big show.

He was voted the regular season MVP in 2022 after leading the league in five major hitting categories: batting average (.349), hits (193), RBIs (113), on-base percentage (.421) and slugging percentage (.575).

Among all KBO hitters with at least 3,000 plate appearances, Lee has the highest career batting average with .342.

Lee, son of KBO legend Lee Jong-beom, burst onto the scene in 2017, winning the Rookie of the Year after batting .324. He has yet to bat lower than that since.

This year, Lee established new career highs with 23 home runs, 113 RBIs and a .575 slugging percentage, showing some power potential while playing in a pitcher-friendly park with offensive numbers down across the KBO.

Lee also drew 66 walks but struck out just 32 times in 2022, the fourth consecutive season in which he had more walks than strikeouts. For his career, Lee has earned 334 free passes against 281 strikeouts.

From Lee’s first season in 2017 to 2022, no one has collected more hits in the KBO than Lee’s 1,076. Over that six-year stretch, Lee ranks first in batting average (.342), first in doubles (221), third in total bases (1,556), third in runs (531) and fourth in on-base plus slugging (.902).


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