South Korean slugger Lee Dae-ho has wrapped up his second successful season in Japan, with his immediate future hanging in the balance.
The Orix Buffaloes first baseman played his last game of the 2013 Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) season at home on Monday. The Buffaloes have three road games remaining against the Rakuten Golden Eagles, but already well out of the postseason contention, 14 games back of the Pacific League-leading Rakuten, they allowed Lee to leave the team early.
Lee, 31, has played every game of the season so far and finished with a .303 average, 24 home runs and 91 RBIs, all best marks on the Buffaloes. He had an on-base percentage of .384 and a slugging percentage of .493.
He had the exact same number of home runs and RBIs in 2012, his first year in Japan. He improved his batting average by 17 points and also posted higher on-base and slugging percentages this year. Lee was also voted on to the All-Star team, as the third South Korean to earn that distinction in the NPB.
Lee was the lone bright spot on offense for the Buffaloes, currently dead last in runs scored and team batting average in the Pacific League.
His two-year deal with the Buffaloes will expire after this season. While the Japanese club will look to re-sign him for another two to three seasons, Lee has also been approached by the uber-agent Scott Boras, an indication that he could sign with a Major League Baseball (MLB) club during the winter.
Boras represents two of the three South Koreans currently in the big leagues: pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers and outfielder Choo Shin-soo of the Cincinnati Reds.
The Buffaloes reserve the prior right to negotiate with Lee. The player is said to be weighing multiple options: re-signing with Orix, moving to another NPB club or signing with an MLB team. (Yonhap news)