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Free agent Lee Dae-ho pushes back scheduled trip home to continue MLB talks

All Headlines 11:48 January 28, 2016

SEOUL, Jan. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korean free agent slugger has postponed his scheduled trip home from his Arizona training base to continue contract talks with a major league club, his agency said Thursday.

Lee had been set to return to South Korea on Friday, but an official with Montis Sports Management Group said Lee has pushed the trip back "by three to four days."

"He's going over some contract details with a big league club," the official added, without identifying the team.

The 33-year-old first baseman/designated hitter has been working out with his former Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club, the Lotte Giants, in Arizona since Jan. 4.

A Montis official flew to the United States with Lee and has been working with Lee's U.S. agency, MVP Sports Group, to try to get a deal done.

Lee, who bats and throws right-handed, is coming off the most productive season of his four-year career in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). He had career highs of 31 home runs and 98 RBIs in 141 games for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and won the Japan Series MVP as the Hawks knocked out the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in five games for their second straight NPB title.

The former KBO MVP chose not to re-sign with the Hawks so he could pursue his big league dreams. Lee was the only South Korean free agent this offseason to attend the annual MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, last month, and said he met with general managers from four clubs there.

Two other free agents from the country, outfielder Kim Hyun-soo and relief pitcher Oh Seung-hwan, have signed with the Baltimore Orioles and the St. Louis Cardinals, respectively. Lee's camp had expected to land a contract by mid-January, but now there's only about a month left before position players report to spring training.

Big league teams may be reluctant to sign a big-bodied designated hitter -- the former high school pitcher had played third base and first base earlier in his career -- who will turn 34 during the season. He's listed at 194 centimeters and 130 kilograms (6-foot-4 and 286 pounds).

The Hawks, meanwhile, are still hoping Lee will choose to play for them for his third season.

Lee has pounded on pitching in the top two Asian leagues for more than a decade. He hit 225 home runs in 1,150 games in the KBO with a .309 career average from 2001 to 2011, and added 98 home runs in 570 games across four seasons in Japan.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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