The Pirates officially announced their signing of Jung-Ho Kang, the 27-year-old Korean shortstop, early Friday morning. He landed a 4-year, 11 million-dollar contract with a club option for a 5th year that stands at 5.5 million. General manager Neal Huntington has reportedly said that he sees Kang as a utility player who brings a valued bat off the bench, this according to sources. The Pirates management believes he could play at shortstop, third and/or second, this is also according to sources.
Kang is coming off a great season playing for the Nexen Heroes, where he was named MVP. He played in 117 games, hitting 36 doubles, 40 home runs and batting .356. Obviously the competition in Major League Baseball will be a lot tougher so he, like all foreign players entering the league, will have to deal with an adjustment period. He won’t be able to put up those types of numbers again, but a number of of scouts who have experience watching Kang play say he has the ability to knock around 15 to 20 home runs a season in the majors. The Pirates struggled mightily at the shortstop position last year, where they were never able to find a consistent bat.
Bringing on a shortstop as a utility player at 4 years, 11 million is incredibly cheap in today’s day and age (see Stephen Drew’s contracts), Especially if he possesses the ability to become an everyday shortstop. Considering the option for the 5th year is under the team’s control, which means they wouldn’t have to pick it up unless they saw some value in it, this will most likely turn into an effective signing by the Pirates.
- Kevin Coombs