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Pirates post top bid for Jung-Ho Kang

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Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Somewhat surprisingly, he Pirates have posted the top bid of around $5 million for Korean infielder Jung-Ho Kang and now can negotiate with him exclusively for 30 days. Kang, 27, hit a ridiculous .356/.459/.739 last season for Nexen. Those are great numbers pretty much anywhere, although the KBO is such an amazingly favorable environment for hitters that this guy won the Korean equivalent of the Cy Young award last year. It's clear that Kang has power, but he shouldn't be expected to reproduce anywhere near his 2014 total of 40 home runs in the U.S., particularly since he'll be a righty playing in PNC Park.

The question is how the Pirates see Kang. He plays shortstop in Korea, but there isn't widespread agreement among scouts about where he ought to play at the big-league level. That's notable for the Pirates, who are famously fastidious about their infield defense. Keith Law (Insider-only) notes that Kang isn't fast for a shortstop, but he has good hands and a very good arm. Perhaps a move to third is in his future. That would make sense for the Pirates, given Josh Harrison's ability to play elsewhere -- maybe Kang is the excuse the Pirates need to move Harrison to second and Neil Walker to first, as some Pirates fans have already suggested. That probably won't happen next year, but perhaps it could in 2016.

Then again, maybe Kang isn't a starting player at all, given the relatively low price the Bucs are paying. There also isn't a ton of precedent for KBO hitters having success in the U.S., which doesn't mean that it can't happen, just that Kang is a question mark. (As Jeff Sullivan notes, Hee-Seop Choi and Shin-Soo Choo were both developed in the U.S., not in the KBO.) Even the Pirates probably see Kang as a gamble, but all things considered, I can't argue with a gamble on a 27-year-old infielder with eye-opening power.

Anyway, the Bucs haven't yet signed Kang -- now that they've posted the winning bid, they need to sign him. He's reportedly looking for $5 million - $6 million per season on a multi-year deal, a price you'd think the Pirates would be willing to pay after already demonstrating their willingness to pony up $5 million to bid for him. (If the Pirates do not sign Kang, they don't have to pay the $5 million posting fee.)

In any case, the Bucs' winning bid represents a welcome departure for them. They typically aren't serious players for big-name international free agents like this. Their play for Kang is especially surprising given that his eventual role with the Pirates isn't yet obvious. This move would be about adding youth and power, and I'm excited to see how it turns out.

Here's some video: