As the Phillies hunt for talent to upgrade their roster for next season and beyond, attention has understandably moved to the international market.
For losing teams looking to get younger and build a roster, free agency is not the way to do it, and trades are hard to come by. Teams have realized this, which is why players from Cuba and Japan are all the rage right now.
Hey, the Phils are neck deep in it. They're seen as one of the favorites to land Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, and GM Ruben Amaro reportedly recently traveled to Japan to watch starting pitcher Kenta Maeda pitch. On Monday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported 27-year-old Korean slugger Jung-Ho Kang will be posted in November.
The Korean shortstop will be posted in November (under the old posting system in which the highest blind bidder gets exclusive negotiating rights), and while there’s intrigue over the 40-homer performer, there is still some pushback from scouts who have seen him play on whether he translates to major league baseball. Some of the alarms include the leg kick in his stance that’s very pronounced and lasts deep into his swing. There also has always been skepticism over his ability to play shortstop in the majors, even though he won the Korean version of the Gold Glove.
Obviously, the Phillies already have a shortstop in Jimmy Rollins, and their best prospect, J.P. Crawford, will take over the position from Rollins in a couple years, barring a drastic and unfortunate turn of events. And, at 27 years old, Kang isn't super young, although he should be entering his prime now.
So does a player like Kang make any sense at all for the Phils? Opinions on him around baseball appear to be mixed.
Preview of my Jung-ho Kang profile, after talking to intl scouting director: no plus tools, not a regular in MLB.
— timdierkes (@timdierkes) October 12, 2014
FWIW since he’s coming up today, I don’t see Jung-Ho Kang’s kick timing mechanism as being particularly bothersome for MLB
— ihateprospects (@ihateprospects) October 12, 2014
Here are some video highlights of Kang, featuring that unusual leg kick.
Even if Kang doesn't project as a Major League shortstop, it doesn't seem like he'd fit in the team's immediate plans at third base either, with Cody Asche and Maikel Franco set to fight for that position.
Second base? The Phils have Chase Utley there. You may have heard of him.
Of course, if the Phillies unload Ryan Howard this off-season, a lot of things could change. Utley could move to first and perhaps Kang could play second. Or, Franco could play first and Kang might be able to play third. That's assuming, of course, Kang has the ability to play either/both of those positions.
Frankly, there are teams with big needs at shortstop who will likely be able to afford the posting fee, even if Kang isn't projected there long-term. The Yankees recently had a shortstop retire (you may have read about it in the newspapers), and the Cardinals are said to potentially be interested as well, although Jhonny Peralta had an oustanding season for them. Detroit's shortstops finished the regular season 27th in fWAR (0.4) and 28th in OPS. All three would appear to be better fits.
don’t know anything about Jung-Ho Kang but will be pissed if RAJ doesn’t get him
— コリン Blackout (@ColinHumphreys) October 12, 2014
He's an international player who has hit a lot of home runs. Anytime one of those comes around, the Phillies are bound to take notice. But in this case, they would be wiser to dump all their cash into the Yasmany Tomas pool, avoid Kang, and hope they get lucky.