Heading into the 2014 offseason, the shortstop market was not extremely deep. Teams needing a shortstop were limited on the free agent market, the class was highlighted by Jed Lowrie and includes two proven veterans Asdrubal Cabrera and Stephen Drew. Lowrie’s name was crossed off the list earlier this week after inking with the Houston Astros, but another name was added to the list…kind of.
Jung-ho Kang, 27 has played for nine seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization but was posted for potential bidders in the Major Leagues earlier this winter. A report from the Yonhap News Agency in Korea reported this week that a $5,002,015 bid was placed by an unknown MLB team and will be accepted by Kang’s Korean squad, the Nexen Heroes.
Kang has been regarded as having above average pop from the shortstop position and will be coming off a career year in 2014 smashing 40 home runs while knocking in 117 RBI. The right-handed hitter owns a career .298 average and can run, although he has only stolen 58 bases over nine seasons. Question marks stand out surrounding his plate discipline, as Kang punched out 106 times this season while walking only 68 times. Defensively, the shortstop seems to be a slightly above average defender, with a strong enough arm to be a big league shortstop.
The questions do not stop there. The two most well-known offensive examples of Korean products in the show are Hee-Seop Choi and Shin-Soo Choo, but both of those players came up through the minor league system with American clubs. Can Kang make the transition from Korean ball to major league ball? Will he ultimately be a shortstop or is his niche at a different position? How will the power numbers translate?
At this point all we know is that Kang has been posted, but the team remains undisclosed. Numerous reports have come out from organizations stating that they weren’t the ones with the winning bid. As of Sunday morning 19 teams had been ruled out. As we stand, the winning team remains a mystery.
Kang has yet to play a game in the major leagues but one team is already risking a $5 million bid to just negotiate a contract with him. Even when the winning bid is revealed, Kang’s whereabouts may not be finalized because it is not a given that the winning team will be able to strike a deal with the Korean standout within the 30-day window.
Power hitting middle infielders are tough to come by, and one may have just fallen into a someone’s lap but that lucky team does not even know yet.