The Mariners announced the signing of slugging Korean first baseman Dae-Ho Lee to a minor-league deal. He hit 31 homers last season for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in the Japan Pacific League on Nippon Professional Baseball.
The Seattle Mariners announced the signing of Korean slugging first baseman Dae-Ho Lee to a minor-league deal with an invite to big-league spring training.
Reports of the signing broke in the Korea Times late Tuesday night. Lee took his physical Tuesday, and the Mariners signed him Wednesday morning
“Dae-Ho gives us another potential right-handed power bat in the first base competition,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team statement. “He has performed at a very high level of production in both Korea and Japan and we are excited to see how that translates to our team.”
The Mariners scouted Lee heavily at the Premier 12 tournament in November in Tokyo. He had the game-winning hit against Japan in the semifinals.
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Lee, who turns 34 in June, put up monster numbers last season for Fukuoka Softbank in the Japan Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball. He hit .282 with a .892 OPS with 20 doubles, 31 homers and 98 RBI in 141 games. In his four seasons in the NPB — two with Orix and two with Fukuoka — Lee hit .293 (622 for 2,122) with 112 doubles, two triples, 98 home runs and 348 RBI in 570 games.
Before his move to Japan, Lee dominated the Korean Baseball Organization for 11 seasons. He was the MVP in 2010, a three-time batting champion, a two-time home run champ and a two-time RBI leader. He also led the league in slugging percentage three times, hits twice, on-base percentage twice and OPS once.
When watching video of Lee in recent years, you see a right-handed hitter who stands 6 feet 4 and appears to weigh more than his listed weight of 280 pounds. But Lee has been in the U.S. working out the past few months at the Mariners’ complex in Peoria, Arizona, and according to sources, he has shaved off a serious amount of weight to prepare for Major League Baseball.
His weight issues have limited him defensively at first base, but he can catch the ball and has soft hands. He could become better with the new body and more work around the bag.
Lee will compete with Jesus Montero and Gaby Sanchez for the backup first-base job and to be the right-handed bat off the bench.
Because Lee was a free agent after the 2015 season, he was free to engage with major-league teams. No posting fee was required to sign Lee.
The Mariners also announced the signing of veteran minor-league catcher Steve Lerud to a minor-league contract. Lerud was brought in for depth after Jesus Sucre suffered a broken leg during winter ball.
“In Steve’s case, with the injury to Jesus Sucre we felt it was important to identify and sign another catcher with Major League experience to provide depth at a crucial position,” Dipoto said in the statement.