The Pittsburgh Pirates and Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang have agreed on four-year, $16 million deal.
According to ESPN’s Jim Bowden, the deal also includes an option for a fifth year in 2019.
The Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization also received a $5 million posting fee from the Pirates to negotiate with Kang, bringing the total cost to land the infielder at $21 million guaranteed.
Kang, 27, posted an absurd .356/.459/.739 batting line with 36 doubles, 40 home runs, and 117 RBI – all career highs – in 117 games for Nexen in 2014.
Despite cashing in on a career year, he doesn’t look like a flash in the pan. Throughout his nine-year carer in the KBO, Kang was a .298/.383/.504 hitter with 139 home runs and 545 RBI in 902 games.
It’s not immediately clear where – or if – he’ll start for the Pirates as they already have Neil Walker at second base, Jordy Mercer at shortstop, and Josh Harrison at third.
Kang would be overpaid as a utility fielder, but both Mercer and Harrison are coming of unexpectedly strong seasons and may be due for regression as every day players.
He’ll likely be angling to win a job in Spring Training from either of those two if his bat is able to translate well from KBO to the big leagues.
Today’s move continues a very busy, but under-the-radar off-season for the Pirates. Thus far, the club has signed three free agents: outfielder/first baseman Corey Hart, right-hander A.J. Burnett, and – this year’s reclamation project for pitching coach Ray Searage – lefty Clayton Richard. The club also re-signed left-handed starter Francisco Liriano during the Winter Meetings and traded for utility fielder Sean Rodriguez, catcher Francisco Cervelli, and left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo.
The Pirates made the post-season for the second straight-year in 2014, but got bumped off by the eventual World Series Champion San Francisco Giants in the Wild Card round.
It’s hard to say if any of these moves put the Pirates in a better position to move deeper into October in 2015, but general manager Neal Huntington clearly has a plan and – with Spring Training just over a month away – the addition of Kang might be the final piece.