By Yun Hwan Chae
SEOUL (Reuters) – Lotte Giants have splashed out a record 15 billion won ($12.9 million) as part of a four-year deal to bring free agent first baseman Lee Dae-ho back to the team, the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) club said on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old Busan native, who played for Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners last season, said he had accomplished all of his career goals and was looking forward to returning to his hometown team.
“I worked hard for my dreams in America and achieved them,” he said on the Giants official website.
“As a last wish I would like to return to Lotte Giants and win the trophy with my team mates. Most of all, I missed the fans who cheered me on even as I played overseas and I am anxious to meet them.
“I also thank the team for treating me with respect and understanding my value.”
The deal eclipses the 10 billion won handed to Choi Hyoung-woo by the Kia Tigers last November, a KBO record for a free agent at the time.
Lee, who won Olympic gold with South Korea at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, played for the Busan-based Giants for 11 seasons, and was named the KBO’s Most Valuable Player in 2010, before moving to Japan for the 2012 season.
After spending four seasons with the Orix Buffaloes and Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Lee decided to have a crack at baseball in the United States and landed a minor league contract with Seattle, where he worked his way onto the Mariners’ roster for the 2016 Major League Baseball season.
He became a free agent after one season and was unable to land a suitable contract with another MLB team. He hit 14 home runs at the Mariners, batting .253 with 49 RBIs.
(Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)