Kevin — Well, the Pirates signed Jung-ho Kang on Monday, Steve, for 4 years/$16M with an option for a 5th year. Counting the posting fee, the Pirates have invested over $21M in him. What do you think of the deal?
Steve – I liked it the moment I heard about the posting, because I thought it was an aggressive move outside of the normal channels. With the new draft and Latin American systems, it’s going to get more and more difficult to stockpile talent for the Pirates. This is a creative way to bring in talent, and it has the potential to provide huge value. Even if he busts, I like the thought of the move.
Kevin — My favorite part of the deal so far is the posting fee. Someone over on Federal Street had a real sense of humor. It’s been reported that it’s a $5M fee, but it’s actually $5,002,015. That’s right, the extra $2,015 to represent the 2015 season.
Steve – Hadn’t noticed it before. I feel like Neal Huntington’s been watching The Price is Right.
Kevin — I’ve been reading online and hearing from some fans that they think this means Neil Walker is getting traded this year. In actuality, I think the Kang signing is just going to allow the Pirates to have a deeper bench, one that is awash in positional versatility, as Rodriguez and Kang can play many different positions.
Steve – I think people are ignoring how much 4 million a year gets you in the majors these days. It’s a low end starter or a solid bench player. I think this move is designed for depth this year with the potential to give the Pirates options next year. It certainly won’t spell the end of Walker if Kang doesn’t work out.
Kevin — Why can’t Pirate fans understand that they can have nice things?
Steve – I don’t blame them for their trust issues with management, but I think it’s time to give the front office the benefit of the doubt. They said they would spend aggressively on the draft. They did. They said they would lock up their players long term and they bought out free agent years of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Jose Tabata (can’t win ’em all) and Charlie Morton. Now, they said the budget would increase with attendance and they have. Combine that with back to back wild card games and they are delivering.
Kevin — Some also feel that this move sends Mercer to the bench and makes Kang the starting shortstop, based purely on the monetary expenditure. I don’t buy that. Because Mercer is making roughly $500,000 this year, the total amount of money allocated to Kang/Mercer is only $4.5M. That’s less than what the Pirates signed Clint Barmes to during his original free agent deal.
Steve — I think Kang will have an opportunity to earn loads of AB’s but I don’t think there are any guarantees here at 4 million. I think it’s an issue with perspective. Four million per year gets you a solid regular in football and hockey. Not so much in baseball.
Kevin — I think Kang is going to need an adjustment period, both to Major League Baseball and to the United States and Pittsburgh, specifically.
Steve — He could easily start the year in the minors. The Pirates have options where they don’t need to rush him.
Kevin — I’m going to say that Kang gets 400 at-bats and plays all over the infield, giving each starter a break once or twice a week. He certainly won’t replicate his video game numbers from the KBO (.356 AVG/.459 OBP/.739 SLG, 40 HR), but I’ll say .240 AVG/.320 OBP/.420 SLG with 12 HR. I would take that for a solid bench guy.
Steve — Your numbers are way too round. Get off the fence and be bold. I’ll say 294 at-bats with a .267 AVG/.317 OBP/.392 SLG.
Kevin — This may be the first time I’m more optimistic than you about something Pirate-related.
Kevin — Two years ago, my family and I were at California Pizza Kitchen after a Pirate game. We were wearing our gear. Our Korean-American waitress brought up how she got tickets for an upcoming Cincinnati Reds-L.A. Dodgers series in Cincy so that she and her family could go see Shin-soo Choo potentially play against Hyun-jin Ryu. I have to imagine that although Pittsburgh’s Korean population isn’t huge, there’s enough that will be interested in supporting him.
Steve – I doubt it will make a huge difference at the gate as we have a small Asian population to begin with. That said, most folks of Asian decent I know locally have ties to Korea.
Kevin — I found out through Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs that Kang’s name is pronounced like “gong”. That depresses me, because I was hoping that Kang the Conqueror could catch on as a nickname.
Steve – I think King Gong is just too easy.
Readers, let us know in the comments what you think Kang’s line will be this year or just your general thoughts about the signing.
Follow Steve @SteveDiMiceli