The Pittsburgh Pirates are reportedly nearing a deal with Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang that would extend four years, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. Furthermore, Kang's agent, Alan Nero, tells Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that a deal is expected to be completed next week.
The 27-year-old Kang was posted by the Korean Baseball Organization last month, and the Pirates came out on top of the bidding with a $5,002,015 bid fee. Kang had been publicly seeking a four-year deal worth $5 million per annum. With the term length seemingly met, it seems likely that Pittsburgh will also match his salary demands, potentially netting Kang a deal in the $20 million range.
Kang is coming off an MVP season for the Nexen Heroes, as he hit .356/.459/.730, while swatting 40 home runs in just 117 games. Despite his gaudy numbers, scouts are mixed on how well his bat will translate to the big leagues considering the relatively low competition level of the KBO. Some view Kang as a likely utility player, while others have opined that he may have 15-20 home run potential, which could make him a starting asset as a middle infielder.
The Pirates have a fair amount of infield depth, so Kang's immediate position with the club is somewhat murky. It's possible that the team views him as a sort of super-utility man (somewhat similar to the role Josh Harrison served last season), backing up the starting trio of Neil Walker, Jordy Mercer, and Harrison at second base, shortstop, and third base, respectively. Kang was a shortstop in Korea, and many view him as a potentially capable second baseman, so the Pirates may view him as somewhat of a long-term play in a possible replacement for Walker, who is only under club control for two more seasons.