Jung-Ho Kang is likely coming to Major League Baseball, but it does not appear it will be as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
After news broke that the Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball League had accepted the winning bid for Kang, as reported by Yonhap News Agency on Friday, there was a flurry of news surrounding the bid and who won it. However it wasn’t the typical run of the rumor mill. Instead of speculation and assumption as to which team had in fact placed the winning $5 million bid, it was more of a washing of the hands, with many word quickly spreading as to which teams had NOT won the bidding. The Toronto Blue Jays were one of those teams to distance themselves from the bidding, with team broadcaster Mike Wilner
After a push for clarification from fellow Blue Jays writer Blue Jays From Away, Wilner expanded a bit, getting a little bit adamant in the process.
This might be a bit of non-news at this point, as there was a complete lack of word that the Blue Jays were even remotely interested in the Korean shortstop. That would hold true with the scouting reports on Kang as well, as MLB Trade Rumors reported that many teams were worried if Kang’s fielding was adequate enough to hold down a position in the middle of the diamond. With the Blue Jays needing a second baseman, that would obviously be a concern for Toronto.
Still, the power is tantalizing for a middle infielder, with Jung-Ho Kang posting very video game-like numbers with a .356/.459/.739 slash-line and 40 home runs and 117 RBI in just 117 games in 2014. To that end, Wilner also makes a point of putting just how hitter-friendly the KBL was last season by giving us an example we’re all too familiar with.
So yeah, the numbers look great on paper but may not be all that transferable to Major League Baseball. That said, the $5 million posting fee is relatively low-risk, as would be the expected average annual value in the ballpark of $5 million to $6 million depending on length of deal, especially if you can hold the deal to 1-2 years.
The lack of involvement for the Blue Jays on some of the international markets, particularly in regards to guys that are expected to be Major League ready, is curious. Toronto obviously has its goals in the international arena, but tend to skew them toward the youth markets, where they can control the development process. If memory serves me, the Blue Jays have not been involved in any of the major international players that have come through recently (Jose Abreu and Yasmany Tomas are recent examples).
I’m not particularly sure why the team takes a backseat during the typical free agent type deals for international stars. Perhaps it is simply deeming those players as too much of a risk versus the cost to acquire them. To that end, there are hits and misses, but the Blue Jays tend to prefer not to take a chance and swing for fear of failure.
That’s not to say that Jung-Ho Kang is a sure thing, or even that he’s worth the gamble. However, there is at least the preference to know that they did their due diligence before bowing out.