The Mariners made another move to upgrade to shore up an offense that finished thirteenth in the American League in scoring last year, signing 34 year old Korean first baseman Dae-Ho Lee to a minor league deal. The news broke in Korea last night, and the team confirmed it today.
Lee is a huge signing, and I mean that quite literally. At 6'4" and in excess of his listed weight of 280 pounds, he's not what you'd expect a major league hitter to look like. But playing for Fukuoka Softbank in Japan last year, he hit .282 with 31 homers and a .892 OPS and is one of the biggest stars (pun not intended) in Korean League history. The Mariners are eager to see how that will translate to playing in the States.
And why not? No team has had more success scouting and bringing players over from Asia than the Mariners, and this is only a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Lee hits right handed and will compete with Jesus Montero and Gaby Sanchez for the chance to platoon with Adam Lind at first. If he makes the Opening Day roster, he can earn up to $4 million if he meets all of his incentives.
Jerry DiPoto's team has made huge strides to turn over the Mariners from the Jack Zduriencek era, with new starters at catcher, first base, and left and center field, Wade Miley and Nate Karns in the rotation, and an almost completely rebuilt bullpen. They also have firmly committed to Ketel Marte at shortstop. With all these upgrades, Seattle figure to be in the hunt for the AL West title with the Angels and the Rangers all year, and may actually be favorites to win the division once the dust settles. Lee may wind up being a big part of that.