Can the Toronto Blue Jays become the new national team for Korean fans?
Currently, the most popular team among Korean baseball fans is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who ironically do not have a single Korean player on their 40-man roster. Park Chan-ho, the pioneer of Korean major leaguers, brought Korean baseball fans to the Dodgers. Since then, many other “Korean big leaguers” such as Choi Hee-seop and Seo Jae-ng have worn the Dodgers’ jersey and continued to connect with Korea. And in 2013, Ryu Hyun-jin, who was the best player in the KBO, signed a contract with the Dodgers, solidifying the team’s position as the “national team. They don’t call them the Gookjers for nothing. This year, the Dodgers are looking to rekindle their relationship with Korea by signing Jang Hyun-seok, who dominated the high school baseball scene with a fastball that can reach nearly 160 kilometers.
The San Diego Padres, with Kim Ha-seong, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, with Bae Ji-hwan, don’t claim the title of “national team”. However, if the two players who have been the most dominant stars in the KBO, albeit at different times, were to play together, it’s not out of the question that they could become the new national team. The Toronto Blue Jays could play out this scenario with the retention of Ryu Hyun-jin and the signing of Lee Jung-hoo.
In an article titled “13 Free Agents Who Could Fit on Toronto’s Roster,” North American sports media outlet The Athletic named Lee, who will soon formalize his major league challenge with the posting system, as a target.
Toronto reporter Caitlin McGrath mentioned Lee as the second player after Cody Bellinger in the outfield category, explaining that “players coming from overseas are a bit of a mystery box because it’s hard to know what to make of their stats,” and that she doesn’t fully trust Lee’s KBO performance, but “Lee is an above-average center fielder who doesn’t have a lot of power, but he makes quality contact and doesn’t strike out too often.
“He was the KBO League MVP in 2022, but his 2023 season ended prematurely due to an ankle injury,” he said, introducing Lee’s injury history this year. It also mentioned his four-year partnership with Ryu Hyun-jin, which began in 2020, and added that he could rekindle the interest of Korean fans. “After spending four seasons with Ryu Hyun-jin, Toronto has developed a strong fandom among Korean baseball fans, and adding another one of the best young hitters in the country could help the Jays reestablish a strong bond with Korean fans,” the outlet explained.
Toronto’s journey with Ryu began when he signed a four-year, $80 million contract ahead of the 2020 season. While the 2020 season was a challenging one for Toronto and South Korea in terms of marketing efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no denying that the interest of Korean baseball fans in Toronto has increased significantly. 무지개토토 도메인
The Jays will likely lose several outfielders to free agency, including Kevin Kiermaier and Whit Merrifield. Kiermaier is a center fielder and Merrifield has played mostly second base this year, but is a utility player who can also play the outfield. Starting third baseman Matt Chapman is also a free agent and is likely to leave.