Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Your 2017 Giants: Korean Star Jae-gyun Hwang Agrees to Minor League Deal

Reporting by Pavlovic, Shea, Baggerly:
  • Giants agreed with Korean 3B Jae-gyun Hwang on a minor league deal.  It appears to be pending a physical.  He will get a spring training invite, and if he makes the 25-man roster, get a $1.5M MLB contract, plus up to $1.6M in bonuses (basically would have to play a full season to get the max).
    • There was some conflicting reports on what he has done in his career.
    • Baggerly:  "Hwang, 29, is coming off the best season of his career for Lotte Giants in Korea. The right-handed hitter posted a .335/.394/.570 slash line with a career high 27 home runs and 25 stolen bases – the fifth consecutive year in which he swiped at least 20."
    • Pavlovic:  "Hwang has played 10 seasons in the KBO and is coming off back-to-back 26-homer seasons. He posted a .330/.391/.558 slash line last season for the Lotte Giants in what is considered a hitter-friendly league. "
    • In any case, he has some power (which don't translate as well) and speed (which translates better, but still not that great) as he tries to make the majors.
  • Baggerly:  "He made his intention to play in the U.S. known to Lotte, rejecting “a sizable offer” from the club, according to Yonhap News Agency. The Giants were among the clubs who attended Hwang’s showcase in Florida earlier this offseason, and were said to be impressed with his contact skills. That’s been a point of emphasis for Hwang, who reduced his strikeouts from 122 in 2015 to 66 last season."
  • He did not need to be posted, being a true free agent per the rules governing Korean players. 
  • His preference was to gain a 40-man roster spot.  The Giants, in any case, do not have any open 40-man spots right now anyway, and would need to remove someone off the roster either via trade or DFA in order to add him should he make the team.  He has options to opt-out of his contract, should he not make the Giants.  
In addition, the Giants aren’t done adding to their roster depth in the three weeks before spring camp opens; they are believed to be wrapping up their search for a backup catcher, since they only have Buster Posey and Trevor Brown on the 40-man roster.  The goal appears to be to find a better MLB catcher, allowing the Giants to use Brown’s minor league options. Starting Brown at Triple-A would allow him to gain more catching experience, and he could join the Giants roster whenever the need arises.

ogc thoughts

After about 10 years since they added an international scout in order to improve their Asia-Pacific scouting, the Giants finally sign (OK, agreed to sign) someone directly from one of the Asian leagues in Jae-gyun Hwang (they signed Nori Aoki previously, but he already came to the US already and been a major league starter, and so did Hak-ju Lee, who they signed to a minor league deal last season, but had been with the Rays for a long time).  With some power, speed, and good contact (from what I recall, the Korean league is not as good as the Japanese league, which some view as either on par with AAA or even AAAA; the Korean league is more like between AA and AAA, to some, so his great numbers have to be taken with a baseball sized grain of salt), seems like a typical player the Giants like to pick up and take a flier on.

This gives additional competition for the starting 3B position, with Nunez the incumbent trying to hold his spot, and Gillaspie posing some competition as well.  Hwang, with some SS experience as well, would also pose some competition with Gillaspie and Adrianza for a backup infielder spot on the bench.   Hwang could possibly play a super-utility role, or the Giants could give him the starting role in order to use Nunez in the super-utility role, which he has played for years for the Twins, only last season starting and playing mainly one position, 3B.

I've been saying for years that the Giants need to add a super-utility type player to the roster in order to even the odds for them in the World Series, giving them a more decent DH type hitter when they are in the AL park.  So it would be nice if either Nunez or Hwang were able to play that position for us, and give us that option in the World Series.

In addition, another way the Giants could go, should Hwang play well, is to start him at 3B while Nunez then starts in LF over Williamson and Parker.

He is a nice depth add, plus, finally, an Asian signing of a star player (at least in their league).  It will certainly makes things more interesting in the battles for the backup infield bench positions, as well as add some heat to the 3B starting position.   But we don't know how well he will do in the majors, and he wasn't all that great in Korean.  More likely, given the disappointing MLB careers so far of Asian hitters, he'll be ready for his closeup in AAA for us during the 2017 season.

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