Coming off of one of the best seasons in his career, the Nexen Heroes have agreed to post their star shortstop, Jung-Ho Kang. In a season where offensive production was up considerably, Kang found himself at or near the top of numerous offensive categories, hitting .364/.457/.733 with 39 home runs in 116 games. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman is now reporting that, along with the Oakland A's and the San Francisco Giants, the Mets are among the teams interested in the 27-year-old.
While his numbers in Korea have generally been impressive, especially his 2014 season, scouts still have many questions about his ability to perform in Major League Baseball. As I profiled back in September, there are numerous legitimate concerns to be aware of. Looking at his offensive profile, his batting stance is particularly quirky and may not allow him to catch up to MLB-caliber pitching, while smaller baseball fields in South Korea—particularly Mokdong Stadium, the Heroes' home field—may have inflated his overall power output.
Looking at his defensive profile, some scouts do not believe he has enough range to be an everyday shortstop, and that he will suffer from the transition from playing primarily on artificial turf to primarily playing on natural grass, two different surfaces that affect how balls are fielded.
The current market for the Korean star is intriguing and might favor the Mets if they are legitimately interested in Kang. According to the Boston Globe's Nick Cadarfo, Kang was likely to get "serious money," but that market simply hasn't materialized. With the New York Yankees having recently traded for Didi Gregorius, they are unlikely to be involved in any bidding for the shortstop, removing one of the biggest spenders in MLB from the posting process.
In addition, left-handed pitchers Kwang-Hyun Kim and Hyeon-Jong Yang both received posting bids far lower than what their respective teams believed they were worth. While both pitchers certainly had their fair share of issues driving their respective prices down, it may be that the current Major League Baseball establishment does not highly value KBO numbers, as opposed to Japanese NPB or Cuban Serie Nacional numbers, bringing down the amount of money the Nexen Heroes will receive in posting fees and the size of the contract Kang will be signed to. Ryan Sadowski, in an editorial for Global Sporting Integration, concluded that the shortstop would likely fetch the Heroes something between $6 and $9 million dollars. Whether or not they accept that is another matter.
Barring a trade or a signing, the Mets are still planning to use some combination of Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada at shortstop in 2015, with Flores being the frontrunner to get the bulk of the playing time. Jung-Ho Kang's value to a big league team is a complete uncertainty. Moreover, he's a lot like Flores in one key way: If his offensive upside isn't realized, he won't be a very valuable player at all.