Jung-hoo Lee is already helping the Giants. Now they need to help him.


San Francisco Giants outfielder Jung-hoo Lee (right) smiles next to president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi at Lee’s introductory press conference on Dec. 15, 2023.

Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/Getty Images

That may be a stretch, but the recent signing of Korean superstar Jung-hoo Lee did a lot to ease the feelings of resentment and despair that seemed to overtake the fan base after the failure to land Shohei Ohtani. That’s not to say Lee and Ohtani are comparable — let’s not get crazy here — but the psychological boost can’t be overstated. 

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That’s why the Lee deal was such a beacon of light in what had become a dark, depressing landscape for Giants fans. This isn’t the same as the Giants signing Michael Conforto or Mitch Haniger. No offense to those players, but it’s not like the market for their services was overflowing with suitors. The Giants had legitimate competition for Lee and managed to come out on top. Did they overpay? Probably! Does it matter? Nope!

Lee may not turn into a superstar in San Francisco, but he projects as a solid, athletic outfielder who may make a few All-Star teams if things shake out. That’s a tremendous upgrade over the past few offseasons, where Giants fans were sold a bill of goods about how the newest, oft-injured hitter signed to a short-term contract was sure to turn things around. It also doesn’t hurt that Lee came off as the most likable (and marketable) player on the entire roster during his introductory press conference. Because of him, the Giants probably sold a lot of tickets that day.

So in the season of goodwill towards your fellow man, the Giants have earned some. The team is better, the fan base is more energized, and Greg Johnson has won at least a few weeks off from hearing about his “somewhat break even” comments. All of that is great. But what is the organization going to do with that goodwill? Lee has helped the Giants, sure, but how will the organization help him?

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Although it’s top heavy, this year’s free agent class has plenty of names that would help the Giants in both the short and long term. The team is well below the luxury tax threshold, even with Lee’s deal factored in, and can be major players in the market.  

If the Giants were willing to shell out upwards of $700 million for Ohtani (and yes, I know it’s not really $700 million, but just go with me here), it stands to reason they have plenty of money left in the coffers. Would using $300 million or more to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Japanese star pitcher who reminds many of Tim Lincecum, be too much to ask? If not Yamamoto, they could turn their attention to reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell. Or, hear me out, why not both? What better way to combat the ridiculous lineup the Dodgers will trot out every day with an equally ridiculous starting rotation? 

And while Lee helps the lineup, it’s still in need of a massive overhaul. Adding a player like Matt Chapman, who’d instantly improve an atrocious defense, could be an interesting move. Cody Bellinger looks to finally be fully healthy and has an MVP trophy in his back pocket. A bunch of interesting names are floating on the trade market, and the Giants have indicated a willingness to part with minor league assets to improve their big league roster. They also likely have to move multiple outfielders, a corner infielder and, after they reportedly signed Tom Murphy on Monday, a catcher off of their current 40-man roster to clear some space too. They likely won’t field a powerhouse lineup, but there are ways to create a much more efficient one.

Lee was a great signing, but he can’t be the only one this winter. It was more of an important step, the Giants’ first try at returning to relevancy both in baseball terms and with their fan base. It showed that they are, in fact, willing to spend money when they need to. But now they need to take that revelation to its logical conclusion. If the Giants want to contend, they need to spend. If the Giants want to sell tickets, they need to spend. And if the Giants want to go toe-to-toe over certain free agents with big-money teams, they need to overspend. They did it with Lee, but will they do it on a much larger scale with someone who would break the franchise record for the largest contract ever?

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Time will tell, but the Giants have earned their goodwill for now. They deserve to sell a few tickets and a few Lee jerseys because they did what was necessary to get the player they clearly coveted. But that goodwill only lasts so long, and an already restless fan base isn’t going to be satisfied with just one major addition. To their credit, the Giants seem to have gotten the message, and now it’s time for them to deliver. 

They may have saved Christmas, sure. But New Year’s is just around the corner.



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