Should the Astros take a gamble on Jeong-ho Kang?


With two high-profile signings regarding the bullpen, Jeff Luhnow still seeks to add a bat and another starting pitcher. This comes after dealing away a promising young right-handed pitcher in Nick Tropeano for a backup catcher with supposedly superior receptive skills. Regarding the left side of the infield, the Astros have yet to be linked to Jeong-ho Kang. MLB veterans Chase Headley and Jed Lowrie have been contacted, but I doubt that they would be in Houston’s price range.

Kang is currently 27 years old. In April, however, he will celebrate his 28th birthday. Baseball-reference lists Kang is listed at 6’0″ and 180 lbs. So he certainly has a decent frame for either third base or shortstop.

On MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agents, Tim Dierkes predicted the Orioles as being the winners of what could be a sweepstakes. Here is his summary on Kang:

"“After hitting 38 home runs in the Korea Baseball Organization in 2014, Kang could be the first position player to make the leap from KBO to MLB.  MLBTR spoke to an international scouting director who finds Kang fringy at shortstop, suggesting he’s better suited for second or third base.  He doesn’t possess any plus tools, and may profile as a utility guy with good instincts and a little bit of pop.  That still has value.”"

That floor makes me a little cautious of wanting to take a risk on Kang. But I’m open to anything that might help the Astros vault themselves into contention sooner. Today MLBTR noted that Kang himself is seeking a short-term deal with a guaranteed value of $24 million for three years. And with the signings so far, there is approximately $8,000,000 left to be filled on the 2015 payroll. So in that regard, there might be a fit.

It is also worth noting that all interested teams must go through the positing process to win negotiating rights. There is a maximum of $20 million so it could turn into a bidding war.

Most of us are not familiar with players of Korean origins in the MLB. The Dodgers have had Hyun-jin Ryu pitch fairly well, albeit in a pitcher-friendly ballpark and a few health issues. The next notable player from Korea? Rangers outfielder Shin-soo Choo who has had a couple of stellar seasons. In 2014, however, he too was plagued by some injuries.

Kang would almost certainly be an upgrade over either Matt Dominguez or Jonathan Villar. If Jeff Luhnow and his team decide he would be a good addition, then he probably would. On a three-year deal for an AAV of $8 million a year, he is likely worth the risk.