Surprise! Kang Jung-ho to negotiate with Pirates

December 22, 2014
Kang Jung-ho (NEWSis)

Kang Jung-ho (NEWSis)

The Pittsburgh Pirates have won the rights to negotiate with South Korean shortstop Kang Jung-ho.

The Pirates announced the news on their website on Monday, shortly after Jon Heyman of tweeted that the Pirates had put in the winning bid for Kang in a Major League-wide silent auction held earlier this month.

The Nexen Heroes, Kang’s Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club, on Saturday received the result of the bidding race and promptly accepted the bid of US$5,002,015, without identifying the big league club.

The Pirates will have exclusive rights to negotiate a contract with Kang for 30 days.

Before Kang was posted, clubs such as the New York Mets, the San Francisco Giants, the Oakland Athletics, the Minnesota Twins and the St. Louis Cardinals were reportedly interested in the 27-year-old shortstop. After the Heroes accepted the bid, the Philadelphia Phillies were bandied about as the potential winner.

The Pirates weren’t considered a front-runner for Kang because they are not know to be an active shopper in the free agent market.
If the Pirates and Kang reach an agreement, the Heroes will pocket the money submitted in the bid for Kang as compensation.

If Kang fails to sign a contract within 30 days, he cannot be posted again until Nov. 1, 2015, and the Heroes will not get that $5 million. Kang will then have a choice of entering contract talks with interested teams in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) or return to the Heroes for at least one more season.

Kang is represented by Alan Nero, a veteran agent and managing director of the baseball division at Octagon. An informed industry source earlier told Yonhap News Agency that Nero is seeking a four-year deal worth $5 million per year, a three-year contract for $5.5 million per season or a two-year deal valued at $6 million per season.

At his press conference in Seoul on Sunday, Kang said he’d like to start out playing shortstop and if he had to switch positions, he’d rather play third base than second base because he was more familiar with the hot corner. Kang played third base for the South Korean national team at the 2010 Asian Games.

Kang also said his goal was to hit around .260 to .270 with 15 or so home runs in his first big league season, which might not be what the Pirates wanted to hear, as their primary shortstop in 2014, Jordy Mercer, batted .255 with 12 home runs.

Pedro Alvarez patrolled the hot corner in 99 of his 122 games. He has tremendous power, but has yet to hit for decent average, and he may be switched to a first baseman next season.

Second baseman Neil Walker finished second on the club with 23 home runs and 76 RBIs, while batting .271. The 28-year-old has been Pittsburgh’s everyday second baseman since 2010.

Josh Harrison is the wild card of the mix. Harrison enjoyed his most productive season with 13 home runs, 52 RBIs, 18 steals and a .315 average while playing five different positions and may deserve a starting spot.

The Pirates have been to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons out of the National League Central Division, and have one of the best players in the Majors in Andrew McCutchen. They earned one of two NL Wild Cards in 2014 with a 88-74 record, but lost to the eventual World Series champs San Francisco Giants in the Wild Card Game.