The Seattle Mariners announced today that they have signed Korean first baseman Dae-ho Lee to a one-year deal worth $4 million.
I’m always skeptical of how baseball players from foreign countries will translate to the MLB. Sometimes it works (Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Yu Darvish, Shin-Soo Choo, Hideki Okajima), and sometimes it doesn’t (Hideki Irabu, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kei Igawa, Kosuke Fukudome, Kaz Matsui).
The good thing here is that this is such a minuscule investment that they can really only benefit from it — no harm, no foul. We’re not talking about committing six years and north of $100 million like the Red Sox did with Matsuzaka, who was a complete bust after the first two years of his deal.
The one-year pact is believed to be a minor league deal that includes an invite to spring training. As it stands today, the Mariners have Adam Lind slated to be their Opening Day first baseman, after acquiring the 32-year-old from the Milwaukee Brewers for a trio of minor leaguers this past December. Lee would also be blocked at DH by Nelson Cruz, who is coming off his second consecutive season with at least 40 homers.
Dipoto suggested last week the Mariners might add a first baseman to compete with Jesus Montero, Gaby Sanchez and Stefen Romero for duty as the right-handed complement to Adam Lind, a left-handed hitter.
Lee doesn’t have time on his side either, as he’s headed into his age-34 season. The righty slugger hit .282 in 2015 with 31 homers and 98 RBIs for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Japan’s Pacific League. Over his last eight seasons, he’s averaged 27 home runs and 99 RBIs, so it’s low risk, high reward gamble for the Mariners.