Mets Will Not Sign Jung-ho Kang

jung-ho-kang

The Pittsburgh Pirates have won the right to negotiate with Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang, bidding $5,002,015.

That doesn’t mean Kang will be in Pittsburgh next season — only that the Bucs have exclusive negotiating rights with him. If the two sides do not come to terms, Kang can return to Korea and the Pirates get their money back.

The Mets did not place a bid, so there wasn’t a possibility that Kang would be on the club in 2015.

For those unaware, Kang hit .356 with 40 homeruns in 117 games last year. However, scouts are split on whether he can handle shortstop on an everyday basis; they’re also split on whether he’ll hit big-league pitching. The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) is considered to be an inferior league, and somewhere between AA and high-A ball.

The Mets reportedly had some interest in Kang earlier in the winter, but that waned after they ran daily fan surveys regarding Troy Tulowitzki Sandy Alderson came to the conclusion that some risk was involved.

Former MLBer and “KBO expert” Ryan Sadowski relayed these five bullet points about Kang:

1) He is a good athlete, but he has a thick lower half, which is why shortstop will be a challenge for him.

2) He has a good arm and decent hands, but he needs work on his fundamentals and footwork.

3) He would make a better third baseman than shortstop, where he’s not likely to stick at the MLB level.

4) He won’t hit 38 HR in MLB, though he does have the potential for power numbers.

5) He will need some development time in the minors, like the Dodgers did with Yasiel Puig.

Hmm … that sounds a lot like another “shortstop” who is already property of the New York Mets, doesn’t it?

What’s your thought? Should the Mets have placed a bid? Even if it turned out that Kang didn’t profile as a shortstop, would you have liked to have seen him in the orange and blue — perhaps moved to 2B or a corner spot?

Oh, by the way, the Pirates already have an everyday shortstop in Jordy Mercer. As well as starters at the other three infield spots, and at all three outfield positions. Weird that they’d want to add another player, right? I guess they have a thing for depth.

For what it’s worth — and likely, it’s worth nothing — I have to say, I can’t remember a shortstop who hit 40 homeruns in A ball, or AA for that matter. In fact, I can’t remember ANY player who hit that many homers in A or AA.

Well, actually, I think Brandon Wood hit 40+ in A ball about ten years ago, and he turned out to be a dud. But still, if you’re a team that is looking for sluggers, has none in its system, and can pick up someone with power potential for nothing but money — isn’t it worth looking into?

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Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Hart December 22, 2014 at 5:55 pm
    On December 7, 2011 we defined ourselves as a small-market team that would not even be part of the conversation for a player like Kang. Not much more to be said… unless you want to go see the Steve Miller Band or Heart, I suppose.
    • Joe Janish December 22, 2014 at 6:27 pm
      Is it fitting that two of SMB’s most popular albums were “The Joker” and “Book of Dreams”?
  2. Bat December 22, 2014 at 8:33 pm
    Rather than Kang, I’m more interested in this rumor furthered by Jon Heyman, courtesy of Metsblog:

    This morning on MLB Network, Jon Heyman said the Mets should offer Noah Syndergaard, Dillon Gee, pitching prospect Rafael Montero, C prospect Kevin Plawecki and Wilmer Flores, with the Rockies paying around $30 million, to get Tulowitzki and the $119 million left on his contract.

    Cerrone held a poll, and 2/3 of readers of Metsblog said they were not in favor of this deal.

    I would do it.

    If this deal was completed, the Mets lineup 1-8 would be:

    Lagares CF
    Murphy (and at some point, no later than 2016, Herrera) 2B
    Wright 3B
    Tulo SS
    Duda 1B
    TDA C
    Cuddyer RF
    Grandy LF

    That’s a good lineup in this era of low offense, and maybe even a very good lineup. That lineup can win a World Series with proper pitching.

    In the rotation you have:

    Harvey
    de Grom
    Wheeler
    Niese
    Colon

    with Matz waiting in the wings to (hopefully) take over for Colon in 2016, and some of the lower level guys waiting to ascend to AA and AAA and replenish those levels that will (largely) be devoid of talent if this trade is consummated.

    The bullpen has a lot of good candidates as we know.

    Under this trade proposal, Tulo is paid $89 million by the Mets over six years (through 2020); that is a very reasonable amount of $14.8 million per year for the poverty-stricken Wilpons.

    If Tulo goes belly up, which I don’t think he will for at least the first three years of the remaining six years of the contract, the Mets should be able to swallow that sunk cost and move on. Again, it’s not a crippling amount for the Mets or any other franchise.

    That lineup above has a nice blend of veterans and younger players, and further has Nimmo and Conforto perhaps ready to take over for Cuddyer and Grandy at some point over the next couple of years.

    The Mets also have Reynolds to play SS when Tulo is (inevitably) injured from time to time (i.e., even in the best case scenario under that six year deal, Tulo isn’t playing 150 games per year).

    I’d make that trade tomorrow, and if Tulo becomes Jim Fregosi and Syndergaard becomes Nolan Ryan…well, you took a chance on acquiring a major piece that you thought would yield a World Series champion, and it didn’t work out. But I wouldn’t exercise hindsight and say the Mets shouldn’t have done it if it doesn’t work out.

    The Mets should take this chance and acquire the best shortstop in baseball and yes, he’s still likely the best in baseball in 2015 even if he plays 130 games or so.

    • Joe Janish December 22, 2014 at 9:03 pm
      Bat, you are reading my mind — I just started working on a post about exactly this ridiculous trade proposal.

      I’m not sure what’s more shocking about the proposal — the fact that Jon Heyman thinks it makes sense for the Rockies, or that there are so many Mets fans so drunk on the Kool-Aid that they wouldn’t do it.

      Those five players for the best shortstop in baseball? AND salary relief? Please. Not a second of hesitation. Actually, the only possible hesitation would be time to recover from the near hear attack at such a deal being proposed.

      Imagine if there were blogs in 1984 — surveyed fans likely would have said “no” to trading Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans for the best catcher in baseball.

      I’ll discuss more soon.

      • DaveSchneck December 22, 2014 at 11:58 pm
        Joe,
        Please allow me to provide a small voice for the dissent, for which I am currently a member. My nay vote is strictly based on the specific injury that Tulo is currently recovering from, and my personal lack of knowledge on the recovery and/or permanent impact on Tulo’s mobility in the field and ability to generate power in the batter’s box. This is a very odd circumstance where the player would be unattainable for the Mets if healthy. The closest comp is Kemp, but unlike Tulo, Kemp proved in the 2nd half of 204 that he can perform at a high level. I don’t really see how any Tulo deal can get done, be it with the Mets or anyone else, until teams see him on the field at least in spring training games. Now, if he looks close to his former self at that point, sign me up for pulling the trigger. At that point I would suggest that the Mets take on al the salary and keep one of those kids, but either way dealing for a healthy Tulo is a different story and a no brainer for that package. Last caveat is if the doctors are confident in a full recovery, I’ll switch to yay.
        • Joe Janish December 23, 2014 at 12:52 am
          The reason the Mets have any chance in heck of obtaining Tulo is because of his health. That there’s any chance they might be able to get him in return for the crap package that Heyman suggests is also entirely because of the mystery surrounding his health. If anyone knew Tulo would be 100%, he’d likely be unavailable; if he were, the conversation would START with Wheeler + Syndegaard or deGrom, and continue from there, probably also including Nimmo.

          This is not unlike a few years back when the Mets had the golden opportunity to lock up Jose Reyes for a song, when he was coming off an injury. Awesome opportunities only arise when risks are involved.

          Regardless of the mystery of Tulo’s health — it’s absolutely, positively, worth the risk of 5 players who are not even close to being All-Stars, 3 of which may not even be in MLB in 2015 (or ever, for that matter), and a fourth who is a damaged-goods, .500 fifth starter. If the Mets wait until Tulo proves to be healthy, someone else will outbid them. Maybe the Nationals or Marlins (ouch!).

        • argonbunnies December 23, 2014 at 6:21 am
          If the Mets were sniffing the playoffs, I’d agree with Dave that trading 3 of their best 5 prospects for a guy who might be out of baseball in another year would be insane. But as is, with the Mets needing to add 10 or so wins and patience wearing thin, a Tulo acquisition might be the only shot they have of getting to the promised land on a Wilpon budget.

          Yeah, Tulo’s more likely to suffer a career-ending injury than win an MVP, but he’s ALSO more likely to win an MVP than anyone on the Mets roster. If Sandy & co. aren’t going to stack the odds in their favor with a good overall roster, two options remain: gamble, or embrace losing.

          Between those two, I’d rather gamble.

  3. Bat December 22, 2014 at 9:27 pm
    Thanks Joe, and I similarly agree with everything you wrote.

    In the lineup I just created, Granderson is the #8 hitter!

    I know some will argue that TDA should bat 8th, but I think if he stays healthy this year he is really going to hit.

    Put perhaps another way, I think TDA is on the way up (as a hitter at least – I’m still not sure about his defense) and Grandy is on the way down.

    Indeed, this trade is the 2014 / 2015 Mets Gary Carter trade. Or the Keith Hernandez trade. It is a defining, franchise-shifting trade that completely changes the landscape, increases excitement (and expectations) of the fanbase, and re-configures the Mets franchise from a laughingstock with constant jokes about money to a formidable playoff contender for at least the next three years.

  4. Dan B December 23, 2014 at 1:20 am
    Joe, thanks for the Reyes reference. I was dying for the Mets to sign him when he was coming off his injury. The Mets took a “let him prove he is healthy” approach and he proved himself healthy to the point where he was unaffordable. The Mets can’t afford healthy stars nor can they afford to take the risk with unhealthy stars. What they can afford is a 82 win team.
    • Dan42 December 23, 2014 at 4:54 am
      Reyes wasn’t exactly unaffordable, just more than the cash starved Wilpons were willing to risk at that time. So what do they do? Let Reyes walk without any attempt to keep him, and subsequently throw even more money at David Wright, 107M of which for his age 32-37 seasons. I guess they couldn’t have known that a good SS is much harder to find than 3B, and that instead of wasting money on Young, Granderson, and other over the hill vets they could have kept Reyes and used cheaper talent they already had to improve the other positions.

      On top of the financial mess, methinks organizational talent evaluation is severely lacking.

    • DaveSchneck December 23, 2014 at 9:27 am
      Dan,
      I don’t agree with the comp to Reyes. We all know that the Reyes stall was a bunch of BS as the Wilpons were crapping their pants over the Madoff issues. There was no doubt surrounding whether Joe would heal and return. To me, the hip labrum thing is much more concerning and uncertain. I understand Tulo would be impossible for the Mets to snare if healthy, and I am fine with backing up the truck in a deal that brings back an elite player in his prime. I just need to know that the guy will actually be able to play again, no less play to a top 5 player level. It is certainly intriguing and there is no doubt that if he joins the team, the outlook changes dramatically, as a guy like him makes the other hitters better by his mere presence. So, bottom line for me is that I can accept performance risk, but I can’t accept not-getting-back-on-the-field risk, or needing to DH from now on risk.
  5. argonbunnies December 23, 2014 at 6:25 am
    With modern salaries being what they are, possibly throwing away $15 mil on Kang, for the chance that he pans out, seems like a solid gamble. Those 38 HRs might well be 38 doubles here, though. It really depends on whether the scouts who worry about his ability to hit an MLB fastball are the same ones who said that about Jose Abreu.

    I bet Kang would be better than Flores, but what I really want is an elite defender, so I’m not too upset about this non-move.

    • DaveSchneck December 23, 2014 at 9:19 am
      Agree 100%.