Venturing into potential free agents from the Far East can be a tricky thing. First, the team has to post the player, making them available to everyone. Then, you have to be the team with the top bid, which then has to be accepted by that posting team. Even after all that, there is just a thirty day window to work out a contract before the player returns to their original club. On the plus side, that posting fee is returned, but there is still that potential hole in the roster.
Kang is certainly an intriguing player, and was considered to be one of the top free agents available. The first ever position player to be posted by Korea Baseball Organization, Kang posted an impressive .356/.459/.739 batting line with 40 home runs. Naturally, given the extreme offensive nature of the Korean League, these numbers have to be somewhat adjusted for reasonable expectations.
Call to the Pen
Despite those possible reservations as to how Jung-ho Kang would perform in the majors, his resume in the Korean League is solid. He hit over twenty home runs in four of the last six seasons, and even produced a 20-20 season in 2012, when he hit .314/.413/.560 with those 25 home runs and 21 stolen bases. Given his power and speed potential, the Pirates could well find themselves with a shortstop capable of hitting fifteen to twenty home runs with double digit steals.
Even with those adjusted expectations, it is reasonable to expect that Kang will be a solid player for the Pirates, should he sign. As it is anticipated that he would slot in as the Pirates starting shortstop, making Jordy Mercer a utility infielder or trade bait, allowing the Pirates to further strengthen their roster. Kang’s contract demands are also reported to be reasonable, as he is thought to be seeking somewhere between $5 and $6 Million on a multi-year deal. Should Kang be able to produce that blend of power and speed, the Pirates could have themselves quite the bargain at short.
Jung-ho Kang is still an unknown when it comes to how he would perform in the major leagues, but he is certainly worth the investment for the Pirates. Now, they just need to get him signed.