Wednesday morning the Seattle Mariners announced the signings of Korean first baseman Dae-Ho Lee along with catcher Steven Lerud on minor-league deals. Both received invitations to major-league spring training.
These are depth moves for the Mariners as Lee provides a right-handed option at first base with Adam Lind being a lefty. Jesus Montero also will have a chance to win that role, but is out of minor-league options and his defensive reliability has some question marks.
Lerud virtually takes the spot of Jesus Sucre, who broke his leg while playing winter ball and will be out for about six months.
Lee, who turns 34 in June, played this past season in the Japan Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball for Fukoka Softbank, and signed a one-year, $4 million deal with incentives with Seattle for 2016. He is a powerful, slugging right-handed hitter who hit .282 with an .892 OPS with 20 doubles, 31 homers, and 98 RBIs in 141 games.
“Dae-Ho gives us another potential right-handed power bat in the first-base competition,” Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto said, via Mariners.com. “He has performed at a very high level of production in both Korea and Japan, and we are excited to see how that translates to our team.”
Before his four seasons in Japan, Lee played 11 seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization and was fairly dominant, as he won the batting title three times along with the 2010 MVP. He is listed on Baseball-Reference at 6’4″, 286 pounds, but has been working out in the United States and has apparently lost some weight.
Lerud, 31, is a former third-round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2003 draft, but has played just nine games at the major-league level, which were in 2012 and 2013 with the Philadelphia Phillies. Last season he played in Triple-A Syracuse in the Washington Nationals’ organization, batting .218 with two home runs and 23 RBIs in 60 games.
“With the injury to Jesus Sucre, we felt it was important to identify and sign another catcher with Major League experience to provide depth at a crucial position,” Dipoto said.