Yankees’ backup plan in centerfield could be Korean star with insane plate discipline

Olympics: Baseball-Men Finals - Bronze Medal Match
Aug 7, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team South Korea outfielder Jung Hoo Lee (51) gestures after a wild pitch by Dominican Republic in the baseball bronze medal match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees‘ plans in centerfield are still unknown, but they have a few short-term, if not long-term, solutions they can consider this off-season.

The most frequent flyer on the Yankee hot stove is Kevin Kiermaier, a 33-year-old defensive stud who primarily features in center and could be on a one-year deal for around $10 million.

Of course, landing Kiermaier would be a supplement until Jasson Dominguez is ready to take over full-time, but if the Yankees want to go with a bit more longevity, Korean star Jung-hoo Lee could fit the bill. Not many are discussing him as a potential target just yet, but he’s expected to be posted soon, and at 25 years old, he’s bringing elite plate discipline to the MLB.

The Yankees Could Take a Risk on Jung-hoo Lee

In the KBO this past season, Lee played 86 games, hitting .318 with a .406 OBP, including six homers, 45 RBIs, and a 5.9% strikeout rate. He hit 23 homers with 113 RBIs and a 5.1% strikeout rate in 2022, but there are concerns that higher-velocity pitches will give him issues.

Even if Lee struck out at double his current percentage, he would still be hovering around 10%, which is more than favorable in the majors. In addition, Lee is an elite defensive player, which would help smooth over any loss from Harrison Bader.

However, Lee would likely earn a deal for at least four years, given his young age. The Yankees could take a shot on him at a reasonable price point to help centerfield for the foreseeable future, but it might create a log jam next year when Dominguez is ready to make the jump — it would make more sense if the Yankees miss out on Juan Soto.

At this juncture, it certainly seems as if Kiermaier makes the most sense on a one-year deal, especially since he offers tremendous value defensively and his lefty bat profiles well in Yankee Stadium.

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