Can the Toronto Blue Jays become the new national team for Korean fans?
Currently, the most popular team among Korean baseball fans is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who ironically do not have a single Korean player on their 40-man roster. Park Chan-ho, the pioneer of Korean major leaguers, brought Korean baseball fans to the Dodgers. Since then, many other “Korean big leaguers” such as Choi Hee-seop and Seo Jae-ng have worn the Dodgers’ jersey and continued to connect with Korea. And in 2013, Ryu Hyun-jin, who was the best player in the KBO, signed a contract with the Dodgers, solidifying the team’s position as the “national team. They don’t call them the Gookjers for nothing. This year, they’re looking to rekindle their ties to Korea by signing Jang Hyun-seok, who dominated high school baseball with a fastball that throws nearly 160 kilometers.
The San Diego Padres, with Kim Ha-seong, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, with Bae Ji-hwan, do not claim the title of “national team”. However, if the two players, who have both dominated the KBO at different points in their careers, are able to play together, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a new “national team” could emerge. 먹튀검증토토사이트 The Toronto Blue Jays could play out this scenario with the retention of Ryu Hyun-jin and the signing of Lee Jung-hoo.
In an article titled “13 Free Agents Who Could Fit on Toronto’s Roster,”
North American sports media outlet The Athletic named Lee, who will soon formalize his major league challenge with the posting system, as a target.
Toronto reporter Caitlin McGrath mentioned Lee as the second player after Cody Bellinger in the outfield category, explaining that “players coming from overseas are a bit of a mystery box because it’s hard to know what to make of their stats,” and that she doesn’t fully trust Lee’s KBO performance, but “Lee is an above-average center fielder who doesn’t have a lot of power, but he makes quality contact and doesn’t strike out too often.
“He was the KBO League MVP in 2022, but his 2023 season ended prematurely due to an ankle injury,” he said, introducing Lee’s injury history this year. It also mentioned his four-year partnership with Ryu Hyun-jin, which began in 2020, and added that he could rekindle the interest of Korean fans. “After spending four seasons with Ryu Hyun-jin, Toronto has built a strong fan base among Korean baseball fans, and adding another of the best young hitters in the game could help the Jays reestablish a strong connection with Korean fans,” the outlet explained.
Toronto’s journey with Ryu began when he signed a four-year, $80 million contract ahead of the 2020 season.
While the 2020 season was a challenging one for Toronto and South Korea in terms of marketing efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no denying that the interest of Korean baseball fans in Toronto has increased significantly.
The Jays will likely lose several outfielders to free agency, including Kevin Kiermaier and Whit Merrifield. Kiermaier is a center fielder and Merrifield has played mostly second base this year, but is a utility player who can also play the outfield. Starting third baseman Matt Chapman is also a free agent and will likely be gone. The Jays could bring in Lee as both a power move to fill out the outfield and minimize gaps in the outfield, as well as a marketing move to more aggressively pursue the Korean market.
Add to that the possibility of Ryu staying in Toronto. Over the past four years, Ryu has established himself as a veteran within the organization and acted as a leader to guide his teammates. He took teammates out to dinner and had a good relationship with the front office. That’s why I don’t consider Ryu’s four-year contract a failure, even though he lost a year and a half of it last year when he underwent Tommy John surgery on his elbow. The local media is also favorably disposed toward Ryu, suggesting that he could stay.
Keegan Mathieson, MLB.com’s Toronto reporter,
“The chances of reuniting with a free agent are not high. Chapman is a bargain in a market where outfielders are valued below average. He’s also an excellent defender and will command big money. Kiermaier will get a multi-year deal for his performance this year and elite defense, while Hicks and Merrifield will get plenty of interest from other teams.
However, “there is uncertainty about Alec Manoa’s role next year and beyond. At the very least, keep his name in the back of your mind as Toronto explores options to bolster the fifth spot in the starting rotation,” leaving open the possibility of re-signing him.
Caitlin McGrath, who covers Toronto for The Athletic, also wrote: “When he underwent Tommy John surgery last summer, it wasn’t clear if he would ever pitch in a Toronto uniform again. But he recovered enough to throw the ball the last two months of the season and performed very well.” “Ryu’s return was one of Toronto’s top storylines of the season, and a fitting end to a four-year, $80 million contract that ushered in a competitive era for the Jays. Despite only starting 11 games, he showed this season that he can still beat hitters with his pinpoint command.
Furthermore, “Signing Ryu to a one-year deal provides insurance for a starting rotation with uncertainty around Alec Manoa. Ryu is a popular player in the clubhouse,” emphasizing that Ryu is likely to stay.
Rotonto general manager Ross Atkins said in his season-ending press conference on May 13, “We’re going to miss Chapman, Belt and Kiermeier.
We’re going to look at opportunities to fill those holes, both inside and outside the organization,” he said, hinting at a parting of the ways. However, when asked about Ryu, he said, “Most of our pitchers are coming back, except for Ryu. Manoa will also return, and Ryu Hyun-jin could be an alternative,” categorizing him as a player who could be re-signed.
The fact that both Ryu and Lee’s agents are represented by “super-agent” Scott Boras is also a factor that cannot be ignored, and it is possible that negotiations will take place at the same time.
Currently, Lee’s price tag is skyrocketing. On the 10th (Korean time), ESPN released the ranking of Major League Baseball’s free agents for 2023-2024, as well as contract size projections.
ESPN, which predicted Lee’s contract size of five years and $63 million, said, “Lee is a solid player who most teams consider a starter and is younger than Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto. But he’s not an impact player. He can play center field, and he can hit, but he’s more likely to be a right fielder with moderate power.
“Other hitters may have better tools, but his flexibility to play center field at a young age makes him a front-runner in the second tier of free agents,” he said, noting that Lee is a special case in a free agent market short on hitters.
Tim Britton of The Athletic projected a four-year, $56 million deal, MLBTradeRumors projected a five-year, $50 million deal, and CBS Sports projected a six-year, $90 million deal.
In Ryu’s case, he is unlikely to receive a long-term contract due to his age and surgical history. According to the LA Times, “Ryu has been injured and hit and miss since signing a four-year deal with Toronto. He’s a free agent again, but he’s expected to get a deal in the neighborhood of $10 million for the 2024 season.” Jim Borden, a columnist for The Athletic, said, “He’s expected to improve in 2024, but he’s likely to get a one-year deal with little guaranteed money and incentives,” and projected $8 million with incentives.
If Ryu Hyun-jin and Lee Jung-hoo were to play for a major league team in the same uniform, the interest of Korean baseball fans would be maximized. If they join forces in Toronto, where they have already established a relationship with Korean fans, they could become the new ‘national team’.