Japan-based South Korean baseball player Lee Dae-ho has been approached by the management company of uber-agent Scott Boras, officials said Thursday, hinting that the slugger could soon sign with a big league club.
Lee Cha-ho, a sports agent and an older brother of the Orix Buffaloes player in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), told Yonhap News Agency that Al Chun, the director of Asian operations at the Boras Corporation, has met the player "a few times in Japan."
An earlier South Korean news report claimed that Lee Dae-ho had signed a management deal with the Boras Corp., but the player's brother said it was not true.
"They had conversations, but Dae-ho didn't sign any paper," the older Lee said. "Dae-ho is still under contract with Orix and with his Japanese agent (lawyer Mito Shigeyuki), and he's a little troubled that the news of his meetings with the Boras Corp. got out."
Lee Dae-ho, 31, is enjoying a solid second season with the Buffaloes. He is hitting .307 with 24 home runs and 89 RBIs as of Thursday. Last year, he put up a .286 average with 24 home runs and the Pacific League-leading 91 RBIs.
He had played for the Lotte Giants in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) here from 2001 to 2011, winning two batting Triple Crowns and taking the 2010 MVP honors.
The Buffaloes will wrap up their regular season on Oct. 13 against the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Lee's current two-year deal expires at the end of this season, and the Buffaloes will have the prior right to negotiate with him.
According to his brother, Lee is weighing multiple options -- re-signing with Orix, joining another NPB club, or moving to Major League Baseball (MLB).
Lee Cha-ho said the Boras Corp. works in the Japanese market as well as in the MLB, and even if Lee Dae-ho signs with the agency, it won't automatically mean the player will go to the majors.
Chun, the Boras Corporation official, admitted he has traveled to Japan three times to meet Lee Dae-ho, but also said no deal is in place yet between the player and the agency.
Two of three South Koreans in the big leagues this year – the Los Angeles Dodgers' pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin and the Cincinnati Reds' outfielder Choo Shin-soo -- are clients of Boras.
Another South Korean player, right-hander Yoon Suk-min of the KBO's Kia Tigers, is represented by Boras. Yoon, a free agent this offseason, is hoping to sign with an MLB team.
Chun said major league scouts are showing interest in Lee Dae-ho. "That means there must be some teams that want to sign him," he said.
Previously, pitcher Koo Dae-sung went from the KBO to the NPB and finally to the majors, signing with the New York Mets before the 2005 season. Another pitcher, Lee Sang-hoon, also made his pro debut in the KBO before moving to Japan and then to the MLB with the Boston Red Sox.
Ryu is the first South Korean to jump directly from the KBO to the majors. (Yonhap News)