Why The Tigers Should Be ALL IN on Japanese Outfielder

Tigers should sign

The MLB hot stove is about to be sizzling hot with the winter meetings upon us. We’ve seen plenty of moves made, including the Tigers adding Kenta Maeda to their rotation next season, but we’ve yet to see any blockbuster moves. That’s going to change in the very near future as the off-season is starting to get far more interesting. Despite adding Maeda, an experienced veteran, to the starting rotation, it’s clear the Tigers will be targeting even more pitching as we get closer to spring training in February. However, with money to spend, the Tigers will likely add another bat to a lineup that was mostly lackluster in 2023. The Tigers’ farm system is deep, with solid hitting prospects. Their infield should be set once Colt Keith and Jace Jung arrive, and Riley Greene and Kerry Carpenter should have two outfield spots locked down. Not to mention, Parker Meadows looked pretty good last season. Because of that, this is a tricky article. The Tigers may end up being content with what they have offensively, but I’m not. With a division wide open, the necessary moves should be made to give the Tigers a chance to challenge for the AL Central in 2024.

I think a certain free-agent outfielder would go a long way toward making that possible.

Outfielder Jung-Hoo Lee Should Be Towards The Top of The Tigers’ Shopping List

This is a no-brainer for me. Kenta Maeda has expressed his interest in a fellow Japanese baseball player joining him with the Tigers, and while people focus on the pitching talent in Japan, I think Jung-Hoo Lee would be the perfect fit for Detroit. Even with no MLB experience, many front offices probably consider Lee the most proficient contact hitter on the market. Lee has been playing in the KBO since 2017 and has never hit below .300. His career-high batting average was .360 in 2021. Unlike most KBO players who’ve made their way to Major League Baseball, Lee is not a power hitter. His career high in home runs came in 2022 when he hit 23. Lee slashed .340/.407./491 in his seven seasons in the KBO. He has 65 career home runs, 352 extra-base hits, 515 RBIs, 304 strikeouts, 383 walks, and 69 stolen bases. Lee could complete the Tigers’ outfield by playing alongside Greene and Carpenter. Plus, Carpenter, occasionally being the DH, and Greene returning from elbow surgery would open a door for Meadows, Akil Baddoo, or off-season acquisition Mark Canha to get some playing time next season. Adding Jung-Hoo Lee would mean the Tigers wouldn’t have to stress about Baddoo’s inconsistencies. Assuming Lee’s transition to the MLB is smooth, he could lead off for the Tigers and be the setup man for Greene, Spencer Torkelson, and Carpenter.

Many fans will think that they wouldn’t consider Jung-Hoo Lee because they already have Meadows, Baddoo, and Canha vying for that final outfield spot. But let me ask you this… are you willing to settle for “We’re heading in the right direction” any longer? The Tigers are in a position to overtake Minnesota to win the division and make the playoffs. Someone like Jung-Hoo Lee may be the piece we need to accomplish it. I can’t imagine Meadows, Baddoo, or Canha would stop them from making the team better and more competitive. Besides, what’s a little competition for playing time going to hurt? That would be a sign of a competitive ball club. The Tigers’ offense went through a phase where they cost Detroit a lot of games.

Eduardo Rodriguez, who has since departed for free agency, had multiple brilliant starts in games we should have easily won. Unfortunately, though, his offense struggled to even provide one run for him. The entire rotation had the same issue. Don’t think I didn’t recognize that the offense also had a promising stretch. Towards the end of the season, it became evident that the Tigers had a young core to build on, and Spencer Torkelson was the centerpiece. If anything, that’s precisely why pulling the trigger on Jung-Hoo Lee makes a lot of sense. The Tigers are missing that big name on their roster. Lee would be a huge addition. It would prove they are legitimate about contending, giving the Tigers a very legitimate top-of-the-order with Lee, Greene, Tork, and Carp likely batting 1-4. I’m glad they want to add more pitching, but Mark Canha can’t be the best bat that we add this off-season, and from what I’ve seen, that appears to be the expectation for Tigers fans, and it doesn’t make sense. I believe Harris will add someone to the lineup to give Detroit an edge in their battle to win the division in 2024.

Gage O'Leary

I'm one of the writers for ITD Baseball, I cover the Detroit Tigers and I hope to have a career in sports some day.

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