South Korean baseball slugger Lee Dae-ho has decided to part ways with his Japanese club the Orix Buffaloes, his brother said Thursday.
Lee Cha-ho, a sports agent and older brother of the player, said Lee Dae-ho told the Osaka-based team in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league on Wednesday that he couldn't accept the club's offer of a new contract.
"He likes the surroundings in the home city of Osaka," Lee Cha-ho said. "But he just couldn't stay with the team with the kind of money that they offered him."
The Buffaloes reportedly offered him 800 million yen ($8.1 million) for two years, after paying him 760 million yen for two previous seasons.
This year, Lee, 31, led the Buffaloes with a .303 average, 24 home runs and 91 RBIs.
He had the exact same number of home runs and RBIs in 2012, his first year in Japan. He improved his batting average this year by 17 points and also posted higher on-base and slugging percentages this year.
He 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.
According to Lee Cha-ho, the player was supposed to negotiate with Orix until Friday, but decided to end the talks early.
"Two to three Japanese clubs have shown interest in Lee Dae-ho and their offer is larger than Orix's," the older Lee said. "Major League Baseball is also interested. He's trying to decide whether to take on the challenge (of playing in the big leagues) or to settle down in Japan."
Lee has been approached by the management company of uber-agent Scott Boras, who counts two current South Korean MLB players -- Choo Shin-soo and Ryu Hyun-jin -- among his clients. (Yonhap News)