Passan: Yoan Moncada could be cleared to sign within two weeks

(ObstructedView.net)
(ObstructedView.net)

Free agent Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada has not yet been cleared to sign by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, but there is growing hope he will be allowed to sign within two weeks, reports Jeff Passan. Moncada has already established residency in Guatemala and has been declared a free agent by MLB. Once he gets OFAC clearance, he can officially sign a contract.

However, as Ben Badler and Jesse Sanchez report, MLB currently requires Cuban players to receive a “specific license” before signing, not a “general license.” The league has accepted general licenses in the past — Yasiel Puig signed using a general license — but they changed their policy within the last few years. According to Badler and Sanchez, Moncada already meets the requirements for a general license. If he has to wait for a specific license, forget about the two weeks thing.

Earlier this week, MLB sent each team a memo stating their policies remain the same. They still require players to receive a specific license, though they are working to OFAC to clarify whether a general license is sufficient. Here’s the memo, courtesy of Sanchez:

“MLB is aware that the Cuban Assets Control Regulations published by the U.S. Treasury on January 16, 2015, may affect the unblocking process for Cuban Players,” Major League Baseball said in a statement earlier in the day. “MLB has important questions regarding how the new regulations apply to the unique circumstances of Cuban Players based on our significant experience in this area, and our discussions with OFAC in prior years. MLB is committed to following the laws of the United States, and will not change its policy requiring that Cuban Players receive a specific OFAC unblocking license until it confirms with all relevant branches of our government, including OFAC, that any new approach is consistent with the law. We hope to receive clarity on this issue as quickly as possible.”

So anyway, this is a bunch of bureaucratic nonsense. MLB decided they wanted players to have the specific license a few years ago even though the OFAC’s policies say it isn’t necessary. Moncada doesn’t have the general license just yet but he does meet the requirements, so he could receive it at any moment. Hence the two weeks thing. But, since MLB wants the specific license, he may have to wait longer.

As far as the Yankees are concerned, the deadline for Moncada to be unblocked by the OFAC — in a way that satisfies MLB — is June 15th. (It really is sometime before that because the two sides need time to negotiate.) Because the Yankees exceeded their spending pool for the 2014-15 international signing period, they can’t sign a player for more than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods. If Moncada signs before June 15th, he’ll count towards the 2014-15 signing period and they can sign him for whatever they want. If not, he’ll count towards 2015-16 and $300,000 ain’t getting it done.

The expectation is that Moncada will receive a $30M to $40M bonus, which would smash the record for a player bound by the new international spending rules (Yoan Lopez, $8.25M). His bonus will be taxed at 100% no matter which team signs him because they will exceed their pool, so he’s a $60M to $80M investment. Moncada will be like any other young international amateur signing — he gets his bonus up front, then goes into the farm system as a non-40-man roster player. Once he reaches MLB, he’ll go through three pre-arbitration years and three arbitration years like everyone else.

By all accounts, the 19-year-old Moncada is a budding star, a switch-hitter with power and speed and high-end athleticism. The Yankees had him in for a private workout at some point recently, as did the Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Rangers and Brewers, according to Sanchez. The Rays, Cubs, Phillies, and Cardinals also have interest in Moncada, though it’s worth noting the Cubs exceeded their spending pool last year and would need Moncada to wait until after July 2nd — the start of the 2015-16 signing period — to sign him.

The Yankees are considered the “heavy favorites” to sign Moncada even though they haven’t signed a big name Cuban player since Jose Contreras. Moncada’s talent is obvious — assuming the scouting reports are accurate, of course — and since he’s still only 19, he’s a potential franchise cornerstone type of player. And there’s also plenty of time for his development to veer off course as well. That’s the reality of the situation. At this point, I’m just ready for this whole thing to be over. I have Moncada (and Cuban player in general) fatigue.

Badler: Yankees held private workout for Yoan Moncada

(Bay Area Sports Guy)
(Bay Area Sports Guy)

According to Ben Balder, the Yankees recently held a private workout for free agent Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada. It’s unclear when the workout was held, but it has already happened. Moncada is in the process of showcasing himself for teams and Badler says he’s already had a private workout for the Giants as well.

Moncada, 19, is the latest prized free agent to come out of Cuba, and all reports indicate he is a potential star with five-tool ability. The Yankees have brought several other Cuban players in for private workouts, including Rusney Castillo and Aledmys Diaz last year, so this isn’t unusual at all. Getting an up close look at the player is pretty standard.

Badler recently wrote that, once signed, Moncada would slot in as one of the top 20 prospects in all of baseball with a good chance of being considered a top 15 or even top ten prospect. Here’s more on the situation from Badler:

From conversations with several industry sources, the Yankees are one of the frontrunners to sign Moncada, who has residency in Guatemala and is a free agent, though Major League Baseball won’t let him sign until he receives a specific unblocking license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). While the young Latin American talent in the organization is promising, the Yankees are light on young, impact position players. Moncada, a 19-year-old switch-hitter who would likely slot it at second or third base, would immediately change that, and slot in as the Yankees’ top prospect if he ended up signing with them.

Since the Yankees blew their international spending pool out of the water last summer, they will not be able to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods. That won’t be enough to sign Moncada, who is expected to command a $30M to $40M bonus. (Whichever team signs him would then be taxed 100% for exceeding their pool).

For the Yankees to have a shot at landing Moncada, he needs to be unblocked by the OFAC before the end of the current signing period of June 15th. Actually, he needs to sign by that date, so he needs to be unblocked well before that so the two sides have time to negotiate. MLB has already declared Moncada a free agent, so they’ve done their part. This is all out of the Yankees’ hands. They’re waiting on the government to give him the okay.

The hype around these Cuban players has gotten out of control these last few years, though, by all accounts, Moncada is a future cornerstone player along the lines of Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu, not a complementary player (Yoenis Cespedes or Alexei Ramirez) or worse (Dayan Viciedo). Given his age and potential, the Yankees should clearly be serious about signing him. It’s just a question of whether he’ll be cleared by the OFAC in time.

Cuban Free Agent Notes: Moncada, Lopez, Olivera

Got some updates to pass along on three Cuban free agents the Yankees are said to be pursuing. Maybe they’ll actually sign one of these guys. Could be cool.

Yankees are “heavy favorites” for Yoan Moncada

According to Kiley McDaniel, the Yankees and Red Sox are currently the “heavy favorites” for 19-year-old infielder Yoan Moncada. That’s consistent with everything we’ve heard the last few weeks and months. Moncada has been declared a free agent by MLB but Jesse Sanchez says he still hasn’t been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, so he can’t sign yet. Private workouts are coming later this month.

In order for the Yankees to have a shot at signing Moncada, he needs to be unblocked by the OFAC before the end of the current international signing period on June 15th. (Really well before that so they have to time to negotiate.) As a result of their massive international spending spree last summer, the Yankees won’t be able to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, and that simply won’t be enough to get Moncada. He’s expected to receive a $30M to $40M bonus, which will be taxed at 100% no matter which teams signs him.

Also, make sure you check out the video embedded at the top of post. It’s a part of a recent documentary about baseball in Cuba called El Trogon. The clip above is video of Moncada with Ben Badler providing commentary about his skills and all that sort of stuff. It’s basically a video scouting report. Make sure you check it out. By all accounts, Moncada is a budding star.

Yoan Lopez now able to sign, Yankees interested

Right-hander Yoan Lopez is now free to sign after being unblocked by the OFAC and declared a free agent by MLB, according to Sanchez. The 21-year-old is expected to sign before Spring Training and the Yankees are one of several teams to “express strong interest” in Lopez. Here’s a scouting report from Sanchez:

Lopez throws a cut fastball, a change, a curve and a slider, but he is best known for a fastball that has reached 100 mph and usually hovers in the 93-95 mph range. In Cuba, Lopez played three seasons for Isla de la Juventud in Serie Nacional, the island’s top league. He sported a 3.12 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 11 walks in 49 innings in his final season before defecting.

Because of his age, Lopez will be subject to the international spending restrictions, meaning the Yankees can sign him for any amount prior to June 15th. After that, they can only offer $300,000. I’m guessing that won’t get it done. That doesn’t figure to be a problem since Lopez seems likely to sign within the next few weeks.

Lopez held a showcase for teams in November and has participated in private workouts the last few weeks. The consensus seems to be that he is not quite MLB ready and will need at least some time in the minors, so Lopez isn’t someone who can step in and help New York’s shaky rotation right away. That doesn’t mean he isn’t worth signing, of course. Sign all the Yoans!

First showcases scheduled for Hector Olivera

Third baseman Hector Olivera will hold his first showcase for teams later this month, at the Giants’ academy in the Dominican Republic on January 21st and 22nd, according to Badler. Olivera has established residency in Haiti but has not been unblocked by the OFAC or declared a free agent by MLB. Since he will turn 30 in April, he is not subject to the international spending rules.

The Yankees are among the teams connected to Olivera, though that was reported before they re-signed Stephen Drew. There isn’t a spot on the roster for another infielder now, and I doubt Olivera is looking to go to Triple-A. The Yankees should be focusing on the 19-year-old Moncada and the 21-year-old Lopez. Olivera is expected to be a solid player, not a star, and at his age he’s simply a lower priority for New York.

Badler: Yanks among teams connected to Cuban infielder Hector Olivera

(Kevork Djansezian/Getty)
(Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

As the baseball world waits for Yoan Moncada to become eligible to sign — Jesse Sanchez says Moncada has yet to receive clearance from the Office of Foreign Assets Control but will start private workouts soon — another free agent Cuban infielder has emerged, Hector Olivera. And, according to Ben Badler (no subs. req’d), the Yankees are one of three teams most connected to Olivera, along with the Padres and Athletics.

Olivera, who will turn 30 in April, is “right up there with Yasiel Puig as one of the most fascinating players to ever leave the island, a mixture of premium talent, performance, health issues, a lack of recent looks and age,” according to Badler. Badler also says Olivera is a better MLB prospect than Yasmany Tomas despite being nearly five years older. Here’s a scouting report:

At around 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Olivera is a physical righthanded hitter with a loose, quick swing and a good hitting approach. He showed good power for a middle infielder, and given that several Cuban players have transformed their bodies and increased their power since leaving the island, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Olivera did the same. His size, athleticism and plus speed (at least at his peak) made him one of the most well-rounded players in Cuba.

Olivera, who is a second baseman by trade but can also play third, flat out raked in Cuba, hitting .335/~.426/.567 with an average of with 23 doubles, 15 homeruns, 49 walks, and 25 strikeouts per season from 2008-12. (They play 90-game seasons in Cuba). That’s better than what Tomas hit in Cuba, not as good as what Jose Abreu hit in Cuba, and on par with what Puig and Yoenis Cespedes hit in Cuba.

Now, here’s the catch: scouts haven’t seen Olivera play all that much recently. A blood disorder — Badler says it was reported as “thrombosis in his left biceps” — caused him to miss the entire 2012-13 season, and Olivera hasn’t played in any international tournaments either. He has not yet held a showcase for scouts but is expected to do so eventually.

Olivera is not close to being able to sign yet — he has yet to establish residency, and then must be unblocked by the OFAC and declared a free agent by MLB. It seems unlikely all of that will happen before Opening Day. It’s unclear how much it will cost to sign him, though it figures to be less than the six-year, $68.5M deal the Diamondbacks gave Tomas because Olivera is older and hasn’t played much recently.

Badler notes Yankees international scouting director Donny Rowland has been around forever, so he’s seen Olivera play in his prime, but that’s not necessarily the Olivera they’d be signing at this point. They’re getting the guy who turns 30 in a few months and hasn’t faced high-caliber competition in a while. His eventual showcases will be important.

The Yankees are still considered a favorite to sign Moncada according to Badler, and Moncada is the much more desirable target as the 19-year-old potential star. That said, if they lose out on Moncada for whatever reason — he has to be cleared by the OFAC before June 15th, otherwise the Yankees can’t offer him more than $300,000 because of this summer’s international spending spree, and $300,000 won’t get it done — Olivera could be an alternative.

Yankees did not place bid for Korean SS Jung-Ho Kang

(AP)
(AP)

The Yankees did not place a bid for Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang prior to Friday afternoon’s deadline, reports Bryan Hoch. That’s not too surprising. They were never really connected to him these last few weeks. The Nexen Heroes are expected to accept the high bid, which came in at approximately $5M, according to a Yonhap News report passed along by our own Sung-Min Kim.

Kang, 27, is said to be seeking a multi-year contract in the $5M to $6M range. It’s unclear which team placed the high bid, but, according to multiple reports, it was not the Mets, Padres, Dodgers, Orioles, Blue Jays, Braves, Giants, Athletics, Twins, Cardinals, or Rays. Or the Yankees, of course. A formal announcement of the high bid is expected sometime Monday.

After re-signing Chase Headley on Monday, it appeared New York’s infield was set, but then they surprisingly traded Martin Prado to the Marlins on Friday. Kang could have been a second base option after Prado was sent packing. Following Friday’s trade, Brian Cashman said he anticipates Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder will compete for the second base job in Spring Training.

Sunny told you everything you need to know about Kang in this post. He hit .356/.459/.739 with 40 homers in 117 games for Nexen this season, though there are questions about his defense and how his power will play in the big leagues. The track record of Asian infielders in MLB is pretty bad as well. The Yankees clearly had some questions if they didn’t place a bid.

Report: Kenta Maeda will not be posted this offseason

(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)
(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)

The Hiroshima Carp have decided not to post ace right-hander Kenta Maeda this offseason, according to a report in Kyodo. The team has informed the player he will not be posted. Back in October, Carp owner Hajime Matsuda said “we would like to let him go, but based on his production this year it will be difficult.”

Maeda, 26, has made it no secret that he wants to play in MLB, though he will not qualify for international free agency until after the 2017 season. He reportedly told the media in Japan he wanted to play for either the Yankees or Red Sox next season. Speculation had him receiving a five or six-year contract in the $100M to $120M range, on the top of the release fee that would be owed to the Carp.

Maeda is arguably the best pitcher in Japan, though his 2014 season was not as good as his 2010-13 efforts. I guess the team was worried the down year wouldn’t allow them to get the maximum $20M release fee. Hiroshima supposedly has a good club, so they can keep their ace, try to win with him in 2015, then post him again next year. Here are Maeda’s career stats (via Baseball-Reference):

Year Age Tm W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 K/BB
2008 20 Hiroshima 9 2 3.20 19 18 1 1 109.2 103 43 39 10 35 55 3 462 1.258 8.5 0.8 2.9 4.5 1.57
2009 21 Hiroshima 8 14 3.36 29 29 3 1 193.0 194 82 72 22 29 147 3 795 1.155 9.0 1.0 1.4 6.9 5.07
2010 22 Hiroshima 15 8 2.21 28 28 6 2 215.2 166 55 53 15 46 174 7 848 0.983 6.9 0.6 1.9 7.3 3.78
2011 23 Hiroshima 10 12 2.46 31 31 4 2 216.0 178 61 59 14 43 192 6 864 1.023 7.4 0.6 1.8 8.0 4.47
2012 24 Hiroshima 14 7 1.53 29 29 5 2 206.1 161 46 35 6 44 171 9 820 0.994 7.0 0.3 1.9 7.5 3.89
2013 25 Hiroshima 15 7 2.10 26 26 3 1 175.2 129 46 41 13 40 158 2 690 0.962 6.6 0.7 2.0 8.1 3.95
2014 26 Hiroshima 11 9 2.60 27 27 1 1 187.0 164 61 54 12 41 161 2 746 1.096 7.9 0.6 2.0 7.7 3.93
7 Seasons 82 59 2.44 189 188 23 10 1303.1 1095 394 353 92 278 1058 32 5225 1.053 7.6 0.6 1.9 7.3 3.81

Ben Badler (subs. req’d) gave a scouting report on Maeda back in October, saying he “doesn’t have overpowering stuff of a frontline starter like we’ve seen from fellow Japanese righthanders Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish, (but his) ability to command his fastball and mix his pitches allows him to keep hitters off-balance.” Badler said Maeda sits anywhere from 87-94 with his fastball and his go-to pitch in a low-80s slider. He also throws a mid-80s changeup, an upper-80s cutter, and a slow low-70s curveball. Here’s video.

The Yankees were never connected to Maeda this offseason, though they need pitching and he figured to be someone they might explore, especially now that almost all of the mid-range starters are off the board. The reported $100M+ price tag seems pretty steep though, especially since Maeda is not considered an elite pitcher along the lines of Tanaka and Darvish. There’s always next offseason, I guess.

A Guide to Possible SS Target: Jung-Ho Kang

(Richard Heathcote/Getty)
(Richard Heathcote/Getty)

It’s safe to say the the Yankees have a glaring hole at the shortstop position following Derek Jeter’s retirement. There are options in free agency (Stephen Drew, Asdrubal Cabrera, etc.) and in trades (Didi Gregorious? Starlin Castro? Elvis Andrus?) to fill the position. However, there is an intriguing unknown commodity that can arise as an option: SS Jung-Ho Kang of the Nexen Heroes in the Korean Baseball Organization.

Reports have indicated Kang will not be posted until “after the Winter Meetings,” which are next week. Two Korean pitchers have already been posted to the big league teams — LHP Kwang-Hyun Kim and LHP Hyeon-Jong Yang — and it looks like the Kang market is not in a huge rush. In fact, with two of the big infield names (Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez) gone in the free agent market, Kang will get more attention from teams that will look to bolster their infield.

The shortstop has been interested in moving over to majors for awhile. In an article from Newsis from Dec. 2013, Kang expressed desire to face pitchers “like Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman,” saying “I am confident in the power versus power matchup.” The article also mentions that Kang’s favorite players are Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera, two Major League infielders who are known for their power displays — something Kang aspires to be in the majors.

Speculation of the Yankees looking at Kang isn’t surprising given their positional need and the team’s history of tapping into Asian talents. Just like Masahiro Tanaka, Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa, Kang would be expected to be ready to contribute to the ML team. However, Kang differs in that he is a positional player. There definitely have been hitters that enjoyed immense (Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui) to considerable (Norichika Aoki) success coming from their nation’s league to MLB, but the track record of Asian infielders in MLB isn’t too pretty.

In past few years, two of the top Japanese infielders went stateside — Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Hiroyuki Nakajima — and neither lived up to the hype. Nishioka, who had hit .346/.423/.482 in 2010 for Chiba Lotte of NPB before signing with the Twins, totaled an awful .503 OPS in 233 AB in two years with Minnesota. Hiroyuki Nakajima, an eight-time NPB All-Star with the Saitama Seibu Lions, never played in majors during his two-year contract with the Athletics that just terminated, hitting a total of .682 OPS in Triple-A and Double-A. In the past, other Japanese infielders like Kaz Matsui, who once hit for a 1.006 OPS in the 2002 season, also did not perform as expected. One player who turned out to be a solid contributor was 2B Tadahito Iguchi, who played for the World Series Champs 2005 White Sox and posted a solid 3.5 fWAR that year. But the overall history of Asian infielders in U.S. is too shaky to feel confident about Kang’s success as a major leaguer.

Kang is the best position player in Korean Baseball Organization right now. As the starting shortstop for the Nexen Heroes (based in Seoul), Kang demolished pitching in 2014. In 117 games, Kang put up a .356/.461/.739 slash line, good for a whopping 1.200 OPS. He also had 78 extra base hits, with 40 of them being homers. Many consider KBO to be lesser in talent than NPB, but those are still very impressive numbers. Here are his career stats:

Year Age Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2006 19 Hyundai 10 21 1 3 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 8 .150 .150 .200 .350
2007 20 Hyundai 20 15 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 .133 .133 .133 .267
2008 21 Woori 116 408 36 98 18 1 8 47 3 1 31 65 .271 .334 .392 .726
2009 22 Woori 133 538 73 136 33 2 23 81 3 2 45 81 .286 .349 .508 .857
2010 23 Nexen 133 522 60 135 30 2 12 58 2 2 61 87 .301 .391 .457 .848
2011 24 Nexen 123 504 53 125 22 2 9 63 4 6 43 62 .282 .353 .401 .754
2012 25 Nexen 124 519 77 137 32 0 25 82 21 5 71 78 .314 .413 .560 .973
2013 26 Nexen 126 532 67 131 21 1 22 96 15 8 68 109 .291 .387 .489 .876
2014 27 Nexen 116 497 102 147 36 2 39 115 3 3 67 106 .354 .457 .733 1.189
9 Seasons 901 3556 469 914 193 10 138 543 51 28 386 601 .298 .382 .502 .885
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/2/2014.

As you may notice, he has power. According to Keith Law, who ranked Kang as the No. 15 free agent in his top 50 free agents list, the shortstop has a “swing that will generate legit plus power.” Law also notes that Kang’s swing is more of a “power swing” than for contact. Here’s a video of all of his 40 regular-season homers from this season. A lot of his dingers are pulled but there are some that go to dead center or to right. He has good enough power to hit home runs to any part of the field, and that is what makes him desirable to scouts and fans.

How will Kang hit in the majors? While the shortstop did hit for a high .356 average, he also struck out 106 times in 117 games, the third most in the league. His BABIP in 2014 is .398 — a rate that certainly shouldn’t be expected when he transitions to MLB. He also shows a league above-average plate discipline — his 13.6 BB% ranks eighth in league. I expect that to go down and strikeout rate (21.2%) to go up as he moves to the majors. How much? I’d say it depends on how well he adapts on seeing Major League-caliber pitches.

Relatively high strikeout rates and a high batting average tells me that he has an aggressive power swing approach most of the time — while he can be fooled by certain pitches, his bat speed and control is good enough to be deadly when he makes contacts. It is a plus that he’s been able to draw walks as well. The challenge for him in majors will be laying off more advanced secondary pitches, challenging faster and more difficult fastballs, facing more advanced set of pitches overall, etc.

In 2014, only one qualified shortstop put up an OPS higher than .800 (Hanley Ramirez with .817) with two between .750 and .800 (Jhonny Peralta at .779 and Starlin Castro at .777). If Kang can put up one around .750, barring a league-wide offensive explosion, he could be considered as one of the top hitting shortstops in ML, which would be deemed quite valuable in the market. Can Kang hit well against Major-League caliber pitchers? A 1.200 OPS to .750-ish is quite a sink, but keep in mind a good amount of Asian hitters never became competent on hitting ML-level fastballs and breaking balls and completely tanked. Also, it should be noted that not all ML scouts think his power will translate in states. According to Joel Sherman, MLB executives aren’t sure how his power will do in states considering that “competition in Korea is inferior to even that in Japan.” The only way to find out how he will do in majors is for him to actually play over stateside and see the results.

Kang’s defense has been a topic of ambivalence for the scouts. As I have mentioned, the history of Asian infielders in ML is not great. The history of Asian shortstops, by the way, is even worse. The aforementioned Nishioka and Nakajima have been failed projects. Kaz Matsui, who won four Mitsui Gold Glove Awards in Japan, became such a defensive liability that the Mets converted him to second base. Munenori Kawasaki has been a solid ML shortstop, but he has suffered with hitting. Kang, while possessing a strong arm, has gathered doubts with range. Law wrote that Kang is “not as fleet foot as you would want a shortstop to be.”

The Korean infielder’s homefield, the Mokdong Stadium, uses artificial turf, which makes fielding grounders easier due to the smooth surface. Unfortunately, there are no in-depth fielding data from Korean Baseball Organization a la Ultimate Zone Rating to give more analysis for his range. The consensus is that he is not the most mobile shortstop but he gets a good read of ball off the bat and has a strong arm. It also remains to be seen if Major League teams see him something other than shortstop. Third base and second base are definite possibilities, as Kang has played in those two spots before becoming the starting shortstop for the Heroes.

Another factor to consider: Kang has been quite durable. Since becoming a regular in 2008, he never missed a significant amount of playing time due to injuries, though he will have to play a chunk of more games in a ML season (128 games per season in KBO). What also works to his advantage is that he is younger than most of the infielders named in the trade and free agent markets. The infielder will turn 28 this upcoming April. If his tools translate well into the majors, a team that signs him may enjoy the best years of his career. But then again, it is a big “if.”

Two other Korean players posted this winter — the lefties Kim and Yang — did not garner as much of a posting fee as their respective teams had hoped. The Padres bid $2 million for Kim, and though the high bid for Yang is not yet reported, it is speculated to be less than that since the Kia Tigers decided not to let the pitcher go. While Kim and Yang are not the same caliber of pitcher as Hyun-Jin Ryu (whom the Dodgers bid $25 million to the Hanhwa Eagles for), the amounts were quite low for the teams to confidently let go of their top pitchers. But it does speak for the scouts’ opinion of how well they would survive in the majors.

As for Kang, I do think that the Nexen Heroes will get more than the Tigers and Wyverns for their pitchers. First off, there’s the pedigree of an infielder with power being in the prime time of his career. With Hanley and Sandoval off the market, two of the biggest bats and infielders are out, which makes Kang an attractive non-trade option for teams that are willing to gamble some money. While the scouts don’t love him ubiquitously, I bet some do see him as a Major League starter talent.

While the Kang posting will not be a subject to a $20 million cap as it applies to NPB players, I don’t think teams will have to break serious bank to win. Nakajima, who hit for .300 average and 20 HR power in NPB, gathered only a $2 million posting fee for the Seibu Lions (from the Yankees, actually. But they didn’t sign him). Nishioka, who had a breakout 2010 with the Chiba Lotte Marines by hitting a .346/.423/.482, garnered a $5.32 million bid from the Twins, not a small amount but not intriguing either.

Of course, Kang is a different player than those two. But given that the top hitters in NPB were not treated top-notch, I don’t know if Kang, from KBO (considered in a lower level of play than NPB by many), would garner much more. Also, I assume many Major League scouts and teams are aware that KBO had a high-octane offense season.  His 40 homers are very impressive — especially as a shortstop — but before this past season, his career-high was 25 in 2012. Did he actually tap into his true power potential or is it a by-product of the bat-heavy KBO season?

C.J. Nitkowski of FOX Sports, who played with Kang in the second half of the 2010 season, is calling for a range of $5-8 million in posting with a “reasonable big league contract” to acquire Kang. Ryan Sadowski, another former major leaguer who played in Korea, wrote for Global Sporting Integration that he expects around $6-9 million range, citing that Kang has the “raw power necessary” despite the offensive outburst in the league. Sadowski also notes taht the Yankees probably monitored on Kang while looking at the IFA signee, SS Hyo-Jun Park.

I’d say I agree with both Nitkowski and Sadowski’s outlook. Kang’s salary for 2014 was around $378,000, which is less than the MLB minimum of $500,000. Nishioka (3 yr, $9.25 million) and Nakajima (2 yr, $6.5 million) both got a ML contact around $3 million per year and that would be a huge raise over Kang’s KBO salary. For comparison’s sake, the highest paid player in KBO, 1B Tae-Kyun Kim, was paid around $1.35 million in 2014. It is possible that Kang may get a figure quite different than Nakajima or Nishioka’s, but I don’t think he’ll get any close to Ryu’s 6 year, $36 million contract.

Assuming that Kang is willing to settle for a two or three-year contract, the possible amount of total money to get the shortstop, including the posting fee, could be anywhere between $12 million to $20 million. If Kang turns out to be a middle infielder that can hit in the neighborhood of .750 OPS and provide an acceptable defense for two or three years, it will be a good investment. I don’t think money would be a problem for the Yankees to get Kang. But are they willing to invest much on a KBO shortstop that has seen zero Major League action? We shall see. My bet at this moment is that the team will work the hardest towards acquiring a shortstop that’s already in the Major League market, whether it be via trade or free agency. If the Yanks can get a known commodity that is sure to produce in 2015 and beyond, great! If New York don’t acquire anyone until the posting starts, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to monitor if the team will bid on Kang.