Seattle Mariners Sign the Big Boy to a Minor League Deal
The Mariners today announced the signing of South Korean slugger Dae-ho “Big Boy” Lee to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The deal can top out at about $4 million if Lee earns all the incentives.
While I’ve long been a fan of Lee, as one of the world’s better position players not in MLB, I’ve written before that I don’t think his chances of MLB success are good going into what will be his age 34 season. Lee can hit, but his NPB stats aren’t impressive enough for me to think he’ll be anything more than a right-handed hitting platoon 1B/DH and pinch hitter in the majors. I’m also convinced that he is exceptionally slow, as his low four-year NBP runs scored total (he averaged 60.5 runs scored per season) in spite of his power, high on-base percentages and playing every day, just can’t reasonably be explained over that long a period any other way.
Still, by giving Lee a minor league deal, which I assume pays him at most $500,000 pro rated for minor league service time, the M’s are risking so little that he’s certainly worth giving a shot.
In Lee’s case, and in the case of many players who aren’t quite good enough to be MLB semi-regulars, it’s probably better to be a big fish in a small pond than a much smaller fish in the ocean. Lee probably walked away from a $12M to $15M guarantee for three seasons from his old team the SoftBank Hawks, and in terms of professional career earnings, Lee’s decision was probably a mistake.
Still, you have to give Lee credit for wanting to give MLB a shot. Lee probably could have had a respectable major league career if he’d come over five years ago, but the MLB opportunities just weren’t there for KBO players at that time.
Now, Lee’s is a contract for which an opt-out clause would make a whole lot sense: if Lee could opt out of his deal with the Mariners on July 1, 2016 if he is not then on the major league roster, he could return to Japan, finish out the 2016 NPB season, and be well positioned for a two year NPB deal after the 2016 season.