Pittsburgh Pirates Sign Jung-ho Kang for $16 Million
The early reports say that the Pirates and South Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang have reached a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth year for around $16 million. That’s about double what I expected based on the $5.002 million winning posting bid.
My expectation was a two-year deal with an option for a third season for a guaranteed $7 million. I was also surprised when the Dodgers gave Hyun-Jin Ryu $36 million after winning with a $25 million posting bid — I was expecting a contract in the $28-30 million range, so I have to wonder if there is something in the dynamics of bidding on KBO players as opposed to Japanese NPB players that causes MLB teams to pay more for KBO players.
The only thing I can think of is that KBO players can elect to sign with an NPB team while MLB teams know that an NPB player who gets posted is more determined to play in MLB. In fact, I think that at least one NPB would have been willing to match a two-year $7 million offer for Kang’s services.
At any rate, I’m surprised at the Pirates’ commitment to Kang. If Kang is truly an everyday MLB player, then a $21 million commitment over four years is a relative bargain. If Kang is instead the next Hiroyuki Nakajima or Tsuyoshi Nishioka then this was an expensive mistake for the low payroll Pirates. It seems certain that all 29 other MLB teams don’t value Kang anywhere near as highly as the Pirates do.
If Kang can’t hack the Show, it will set back the cause of KBO position players coming to MLB for some time to come. The last couple of Japanese position players flopped, and it has strongly impacted MLB interest in Japanese position players going forward, even though the last couple of NPBers didn’t get anywhere near the amount of money Kang will be getting.
If Kang flops, I don’t think we’ll see another KBO position player in MLB until there is a KBO position player who is just head and shoulders better than everyone else in the KBO. Instead, the best KBO players will continue to head to NPB when they price themselves out of the KBO market.