‘It will take at least $5 million per season to sign Korean SS Kang Jung-ho’

December 18, 2014
Shortstop slugger Kang Jung-ho (Yonhap)

Shortstop slugger Kang Jung-ho (Yonhap)

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL (Yonhap) — The posted South Korean shortstop Kang Jung-ho is seeking a multiyear contract from a big league club worth at least US$5 million per season, an informed industry source told Yonhap News Agency on Thursday.

Kang, currently with the Nexen Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), was posted for Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs earlier in the week. The source, privy to player transactions in the big leagues, said Kang’s veteran agent, Alan Nero, has let teams know of specific figures he’s hoping to get for his South Korean client.

According to the source, Nero, managing director of the baseball division at Octagon, is seeking a four-year deal worth $5 million per year, or a three-year contract for $5.5 million per season, or a two-year deal valued at $6 million per season.

The 30 big league clubs have four business days in which to submit their bids for the 27-year-old in a silent auction, and the deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, Eastern Standard Time, or 7 a.m. Saturday in Seoul.

Once all the bids are in, the Heroes will be informed of the amount of the highest bid. They will then have four business days in which to decide whether to accept it. If they do, then the bidding winner will be granted exclusive negotiating rights with Kang for 30 days. Should the two sides reach an agreement, the Heroes will pocket the money submitted in posting as compensation.

If the Heroes reject it, then Kang will be off the big league market and will not be eligible for posting until Nov. 1, 2015. He will still have an option of entering contract talks with clubs in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), or he could return to the Heroes for another season.

Media reports in South Korea and the United States have speculated that Kang could garner anywhere between $5 million and $10 million in posting fees, and that he could sign a multiyear deal worth around $8 million per season.

The New York Mets, the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics first emerged as clubs with interest in Kang, with the Minnesota Twins and the St. Louis Cardinals also being mentioned. However, the Mets’ general manager Sandy Alderson recently said it was “unlikely” that his club would pursue Kang. Billy Beane, the Athletics’ general manager, has also said reports about Oakland’s interest in Kang were inaccurate.

According to the source, Nero maintains that five teams have interest.

Kang enjoyed the best offensive season of his career in 2014. He played in 117 of the team’s 128 games and set career-highs with a .356 batting average, 40 home runs and 117 RBIs. The home run and RBI totals were both single-season records by a shortstop in the KBO.

He also established new personal bests with 149 hits, 36 doubles, 103 runs scored, a .459 on-base percentage and a .739 slugging percentage.

For his career, Kang is a .298 hitter in 902 games with 139 home runs, 545 RBIs and 51 steals.

Kang, a former catcher, is known for a strong arm but has also developed a reputation for botching routine plays. Given his lack of agility and range at short, some MLB teams are said to be interested in Kang as a third baseman or a second baseman.

Kang is the third KBO player to be posted this offseason. Left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun of the SK Wyverns was the first to be posted in early November. The San Diego Padres bid $2 million for him but the team and Kim failed to reach an agreement during their 30-day window. One industry source had told Yonhap that Kim rejected a two-year, $2 million offer by the Padres.

After Kim, another left-handed pitcher, Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers, was posted. The Tigers rejected the bid submitted for their pitcher because the amount was lower than what they’d hoped for their ace. Though the amount of the highest bid was never disclosed, it was reportedly around $1.5 million.

Kang is the first position player from the KBO to be posted. He’s seeking to become only the second KBO player to jump to the majors via posting, after the Los Angeles Dodgers’ left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin.

Ryu signed a six-year, $36 million contract after getting posted by his KBO team, Hanwha Eagles, in 2012.