The New York Yankees, who have won 27 World Series titles, the most in Major League Baseball history, are in the running for Lee Jung-hoo (25, Kium Heroes). With a batting lineup that ranks 29th in the league, the Yankees are keeping a close eye on the left-hander.
With the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres, whose general manager Pete Putilla personally visited the Gocheokdome in Seoul, expressing interest in Lee, the Yankees have emerged as a strong contender.
On Nov. 11 (KST)메이저놀이터, The Athletic reported on the Yankees’ interest in Lee and Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes) in a Q&A session. Both players, who represent Korea and Japan in professional baseball, are expected to make their major league debuts this winter.
Brandon Cootie writes, “The Yankees will certainly keep an eye on Lee’s market. They’ve been watching Lee this season. Last year’s KBO League MVP ended his season with an ankle injury, but he still managed to hit .301 with six home runs and 45 RBIs in 85 games (excluding one at-bat against Gocheok Samsung Electronics on October 10). Teams will be interested in Lee’s solid defense, as well as the fact that he has more walks (383) than strikeouts (304) in his career.
Reporter Cootie then said, “Although he hit 23 home runs last year, Lee Jung-hoo is not a ball-striker. However, he has a good swing as a left-handed hitter and can perform well considering the short outfield at Yankee Stadium.” “The Yankees will try to sign Lee Jung-hoo. However, San Diego and San Francisco, who have Korean-born Kim Ha-seong, have also been linked to Lee.
The Yankees, who failed to win the World Series for 14 years ending in 2009, went 82-80 this year and finished fourth in the American League (AL) East. A sixth consecutive postseason appearance has also been eluded, prompting calls for a freshening of the atmosphere. General manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone also have no job security. It’s a fluid situation, but the team is in desperate need of batting help.
This year, the Yankees ranked 29th in team batting average (.227), 27th in slugging percentage (.304), 22nd in on-base percentage (.397), 24th in OPS (.701), and 25th in runs per game (4.15). The team fired hitting coach Dylan Lawson after the first half and replaced him with Sean Casey, but there was no noticeable rebound. With the exception of Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres, every hitter performed below league average.
Outside of right field, the outfield is also devoid of regulars. Center fielder Harrison Bader, who was headed for free agency, was claimed off waivers in late August and sent to the Cincinnati Reds, and 20-year-old prospect Jason Dominguez flashed potential in his place, going 25-for-31 with four homers, seven RBIs and a .980 OPS, but injured his elbow after eight games. He underwent Tommy John surgery and won’t return until late next year. Another outfielder, Oswaldo Cabrera, is a utility outfielder with good defense but a weak bat, and 22-year-old prospect Everson Pereira needs a little more time to reach full strength.
With the outfield in need of reinforcements, Lee’s name has been consistently mentioned alongside free agent slugger Cody Bellinger (Chicago Cubs). The fact that both are left-handed hitters is also of interest to the Yankees. Yankee Stadium, the Yankees’ asymmetrical home, favors lefties with shorter home-to-fence distances in left, 97 meters, 122 meters, center, 124 meters, 117 meters, and 96 meters in right. This makes up for Lee’s lack of long ball power.
The Yankees are as desperate for pitching help as they are in the outfield. With the 18th-best starting ERA in baseball (4.44), they don’t have a solid starter outside of Gerrit Cole and are in desperate need of free agent pitcher Maxwell Yamamoto. Cootie reports, ‘The Yankees’ interest in Yamamoto has been confirmed. General manager Brian Cashman traveled to Japan to see Yamamoto on March 10 and watched the no-hitter. Now 25 years old, Yamamoto will be the most coveted pitcher in this free agency. He could command a contract in excess of $200 million. The Yankees are in need of pitching after last winter’s big-money acquisition, Carlos Rodon, failed. However, the competition for Yamamoto is likely to be fierce.