Slugging shortstop Kang Jung-ho hoping to be posted by mid-December

November 18, 2014
Kang Jung-ho will be eligible to sign to an MLB team after the 2014 season is over.

Kang Jung-ho will be eligible to sign to an MLB team after the 2014 season is over.

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL (Yonhap) — Hard-hitting shortstop Kang Jung-ho said Tuesday he will ask to be posted for interested Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs by mid-December and join two other players from the top South Korean league who have taken steps toward the big league.

Kang of the Nexen Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said he plans to meet his agent sometime next week. The 27-year-old is being represented by veteran agent Alan Nero of Octagon.

Kang has completed his equivalent of seven full seasons in the KBO and has become a conditional free agent. This means he can be posted for MLB teams or enter contract talks with teams in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) with the Heroes’ approval.

“I will have my first discussion (with the agent) about playing in the United States next week,” Kang said after the annual KBO Awards ceremony. “We haven’t taken any specific steps (toward the majors), but at this point, I will probably ask to be posted in mid-December.”

Kang finished third in the MVP voting on Tuesday, after batting .356 with 40 home runs and 117 RBIs, all career-highs. The home runs and RBIs are both single-season records for a shortstop. Kang was fourth in batting average, second in home runs and third in RBIs. He led the KBO with a .739 slugging percentage and 1.198 OPS.

On the strength of his banner offensive year, in which he also demonstrated solid defense, Kang is expected to be a hot commodity in the international market, as long as the Heroes grant him his wish to play overseas.

Kang often said throughout the season that he’d like to play in the majors next year.

Before Kang, two left-handers, Kim Kwang-hyun of the SK Wyverns and Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers, were posted. Kim drew a bid of US$2 million from the San Diego Padres, and the two sides have until Dec. 11 to work out a contract. Yang was posted earlier this week and is waiting to hear from the winner of the bidding war.

Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers remains the only South Korean to make the jump from the KBO to MLB via posting. He was posted in 2012 and signed a six-year, $36 million contract. Over his first two seasons, the left-hander has gone 28-15 with a 3.17 ERA.

If Kang is posted and signs with a big league club, he’d become the first South Korean position player to make the transition.

“I know Ryu Hyun-jin has done well in the U.S.,” Kang said. “I’d like to be just as successful as a hitter. I hope to deliver good news in December.”

Texas Rangers outfielder Choo Shin-soo is the only South Korean position player in the majors. Before him, first baseman Choi Hee-seop played for three different organizations in four big league seasons. Both players signed as free agents before playing professional ball in South Korea. Choi joined the KBO in 2007, while Choo has been in the majors since 2005.