Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Jung-Ho Kang and a Whole Lot of Firsts

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been awarded the winning posting bid for the right to exclusively negotiate with Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang. The posting fee bid from the Pirates is reported to be $5 million. Kang is a 28 year old right-handed hitting shortstop for the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). Kang is a 5-time all-star in the KBO. Last season he put up Ruthian slugging statistics. In 116 games he crushed 40 Home Runs and led the league with a 1.198 OPS. It should be noted that the KBO is an offense heavy league and that the level of play is lower than even that of the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball League. Kang’s KBO stats are not likely to translate to Major League Baseball. However, most scouts believe he is a major league ready talent capable of being at the very least a utility player. The Pirates obviously believe he can be more than that. In addition to the $5 million posting fee the Pirates also need to sign Kang to a major league contract. His demands are reportedly a 3 or 4 year contract worth at least $5 million annually. In all likelihood it will take an investment in the vicinity of $20 million for the Pirates to bring Jung-ho Kang to Pittsburgh. That is more than the team has ever spent on a free agent position player, besting the 2 year $17 million contract spent on Russell Martin two years ago.
This is an historic moment for both the Pirates and Korean baseball. It marks the first time the Pirates have ever won a bid for an international player thru the posting system. Jung-ho Kang would also be the first Korean position player to jump from the KBO to Major League Baseball. Amateur Korean players such as Hee-Seop Choi have been signed by major league organizations, but the only professionals in the KBO to make the jump to MLB have been pitchers, the most notable being Hyun-jin Ryu of the Dodgers. I have to give general manager Neal Huntington credit for having the guts to take a leap like this. Jung-ho Kang offers a high ceiling but a very low floor. This is a pretty big gamble financially for a small market club like the Pirates. I have criticized the Pirates in the past for being too risk adverse. This is certainly a change of course.

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