The Padres and Jung Hoo Lee are a perfect match for each other this winter.
With the trade of Juan Soto, the San Diego Padres need outfield production for the 2024 season.
In the trade with the Yankees, the Padres also sent their starting center fielder to New York. Trent Grisham is gone, and Jose Azocar is the only rostered player with experience in the middle outfield position. The team could move Fernando Tatis Jr. to center, but they are more likely to sign or trade an outfielder for the job.
He was posted this week, and there are multiple reports linking the two sides.
Lee is considered a plus defender and would easily handle the position in the spacious confines of Petco Park. He does not have elite foot speed, but tracks balls well and shows great range off the bat. The throwing arm is above average and not a problem at all moving forward. Lee is blessed with tremendous baseball I.Q. His father enjoyed a 19-year professional career in Korea. In fact, the elder Lee still holds the KBO record for stolen bases with 84 in a season.
The Padres need offensive help. Especially since they moved Juan Soto. They also need a left-handed bat in lineup.
Jung Hoo Lee has an elite left-handed bat and impressive bat-to-ball skills. The outfielder struck out only 32 times in 142 regular season games during the 2022 season while walking 66 times. That season, he put up a .349/.421/.575 batting line with 23 homers and 113 RBIs. He was recognized as the best player in the league, winning the KBO League MVP. In seven seasons in Korea, Lee owns a .340/407/.491 slash line in 884 games and 3,947 plate appearances.
He is not a power hitter, and may take time to adjust to pitching in the States. Early reports are that he handled the fastball really well in Korea, but the average fastball is way lower there than in the States. Ha-Seong Kim is surely an advantage for the Padres. Kim and Lee are good friends, and there are multiple social media posts with the two working out this winter. The Padres possess a need and can provide a sense of comfort with Kim on the roster. Where there is smoke, there is sure to be fire.
Lee is a 25-year-old and in the prime of his playing career. He will get more than the four-year/$28 million that the Padres gave Ha-Seong Kim before the 2021 season. The Padres have cleared space in their payroll, and the addition of Jung Hoo Lee could be the first of several moves. For those missing Juan Soto- you can only hope.