The Pirates and Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang have agreed to terms on a four-year deal with a fifth-year option, reports Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (Twitter links). Kang’s contract, which is still pending a physical, will guarantee him about $16MM, according to Bowden. Kang is represented by Octagon’s Alan Nero.
Kang’s former club, the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization, announced recently that the 2014 KBO MVP was flying to Pittsburgh to take a physical this week, and Nero himself told reporters last week that he expected an agreement to be reached with the club this week. Kang had reportedly been seeking about $5MM per year on a four-year deal, so it appears that Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington and his staff were able to talk Kang and Nero down a bit.
The 27-year-old Kang (28 in April) is coming off an incredible season with the Heroes in which he batted .356/.459/.739 batting line and 40 home runs in 117 games between the regular season and the playoffs. Though KBO is notoriously hitter-friendly, those numbers still garnered quite a bit of attention from big league clubs, even though some were clearly skeptical, as Pittsburgh’s $5,002,015 winning bid for the negotiation rights was relatively modest.
The biggest questions surrounding Jung-ho Kang are whether or not his production in the KBO will translate over to the National League and where he will play. Given his modest salary and ability to play around the diamond, even if Kang is unable to replace Jordy Mercer, he could still be a valuable utility player in a Ben Zobrist mold. That four year contract is certainly reasonable.
Jung-ho Kang is now in the fold for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now, it is a matter of determining where he will slot in their lineup and how the Pirates will use him going forward.