Greek Giant

Major League Baseball officially announced yesterday that the Giants signed Korean Star Jung Ho Lee to a six-year deal worth $113 million. That’s a lotta dough for a player who has not yet faced Major League pitching but the scouting reports on the talented left-handed hitting center fielder all rave about his contact rate, his glove, and his ability to hit different types of pitches. Lee was one of the prized and most coveted players available as a free agent this winter. His contract is reported to contain an opt-out after four years.

Lee was posted by the Kiwoom Heroes after seven seasons in the Korean League. If he stays in San Francisco for the entire contract, the Giants will also owe the Heroes an $18.825 million posting fee, bringing their total outlay to nearly $132 million.

Lee fills the need for improved defense and athleticism on the field for the Giants. He was coveted by many clubs including the Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees and Red Sox. He is expected to make a fairly quick transition to MLB because of his batted ball skills and athleticism. That remains to be seen however and the signing represents a risk for the Giants, who, by the way, confirmed they offered more money to Shohei Ohtani than the Dodgers did.

Shohei Ohtani and the Giants

The failure to sign Ohtani is no slight on San Francisco as Ohtani wanted to go to Los Angeles from the beginning of the process, it now appears. It is claimed Ohtani was only going to play for a team with a dome or on the west coast that was also very primed to win a World Series. It is also claimed, through the grapevine and my sources on the street, that Ohtani does not like Willie Mays Field due to its cold and damp weather for much of the season. Let’s be real, Giants fans. The Giants are nowhere near a World Series and Ohtani knew it.

In fact Andrew Baggarly just published an interview with Buster about the pursuit of Ohtani. It is very enlightening. 

Here is what Buster said about his meeting with Ohtani:

“I just wanted him to understand my level of love for the San Francisco Giants and city of San Francisco and for him to understand how much I’ve come to appreciate the history here and wanting him to be a part of that history going forward,” Posey said of the Giants’ intimate, two-hour meeting with Ohtani, which also included Zaidi, Johnson, and manager Bob Melvin. “It was such a unique opportunity. I just feel that him coming to the Giants could have been transformative, obviously for the baseball team but it also would’ve given the city a boost that we’ve all been looking for.

“That was the pitch: ‘Look, you’ve got an opportunity to come here and do something special that’s going to impact not only people during your tenure but potentially for years and years to come even after you’re done playing.’ And I meant it. I fully believed it.”

and for people who don’t think San Francisco’s image and problems are real, read this and weep:

“Something I think is noteworthy, something that unfortunately keeps popping up from players and even the players’ wives is there’s a bit of an uneasiness with the city itself, as far as the state of the city, with crime, with drugs,” Posey said. “Whether that’s all completely fair or not, perception is reality. It’s a frustrating cycle, I think, and not just with baseball. Baseball is secondary to life and the important things in life. But as far as a free-agent pursuit goes, I have seen that it does affect things.”

And yes, Posey said, it affected the Ohtani pursuit.

Posey made it clear that Ohtani never said or did anything to express concerns about San Francisco. But within his camp, “there was some reservation with the state of the city right now.” Two offseasons ago, similar reservations were a factor that steered former Hiroshima Carp star outfielder Seiya Suzuki away from the Giants to sign with the Chicago Cubs.

But I digress.

Lee Highlights

Today we are here to celebrate the acquisition of a player who could play a major role in the renaissance of the San Francisco Baseballers. This is a happy day indeed, one that gives me, you and other fans cause of optimism. No more over-the-hill, past their prime vets! No more overpays for guys who have already seen their best days as hitters! It’s time for a new, younger, leaner and meaner Giants team. Let’s hope there are new acquisitions of high quality starting pitching on the horizon as well.

Check out this highlight reel! I dig the background music. Note that quick swing, reminiscent somewhat of Ichiro!

The Roster Is Impacted

The Lee acquisition gives the Giants more outfielders than they need. It means players like Conforto, Yaz and Meckler are expendable since they all hit from the left side. It also likely means one or more of them will be packaged in a trade. Count on it!