Yesterday, it was reported that the Korean Baseball Organization's Lotte Giants did not receive any bids on posted outfielder Ah-Seop Son. The 27 year old left-handed hitter was posted by his club last week after a strong three year stretch in the KBO. Son faced an uphill battle against a crowded free agent market for outfielders and will now stay as property of the Giants, who own his rights for another two seasons and could conceivable try and post him again next winter.
According to the KBO posting rules, a club can only post one player at a time and accept one winning bid per offseason. Because the Giants did not accept any bids for Son, they are now clear to post their other player who requested the opportunity to make the jump stateside: third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang, bat-flipper extraordinaire.
Source: Lotte Giants will post 3B Jae-Gyun Hwang. AKA: the guy who pulled this off. pic.twitter.com/lxZYOjcXJz— Joon Lee (@iamjoonlee) November 24, 2015
Jae-gyun made his KBO debut in 2007 at the tender age of 19 and has enjoyed a strong career since then. He doesn't have the outrageous numbers that his KBO contemporaries Jung-ho Kang or Byung-ho Park do, but Hwang has slashed .280/.343/.417 with 88 home runs in 1057 games in the KBO. Hwang has spent most of the last six seasons with Lotte after being traded there in 2010. He's been more of a contact hitter than a power hitter during his career, but Hwang bulked by about 15 pounds prior to 2015 and put together the best season of his career, slugging a career-high 26 home runs and posting an .870 OPS (the hitter-friendly KBO's league average OPS was .785 in 2015). Some scouts reportedly prefer Hwang's upside to that of his teammate Son, and Hwang could present an everyday option at the hot corner in a relatively barren market. You can see his career highlight video here.
Hwang isn't a traditional "free agent," of course, as teams will need to go through the posting process in order to try and secure his services. That means an interested team must submit a blind bid after he is officially posted today. Bidding lasts for a week, after which time the Giants can choose to accept the highest bid. Whichever club is chosen as the winner will then have a 30 day window to negotiate a contract with Hwang. Unlike Son, Hwang would become an unrestricted free agent after next season, meaning he freely to pursue a big league deal without the Giants receiving any sort of compensation.
Our own Brewers, of course, figure to have a need at third base themselves. GM David Stearns has already touched on the fact that the club will probably be looking at outside additions at the hot corner. We've already discussed potential stop-gap third base options like David Freese and Juan Uribe that are available on the free agent market, but Hwang is a different animal. At just 28 years of age, Hwang still has some prime years left and could be a longer-term option for any club that signs him. His cost also also won't be prohibitive; given his track record I'd imagine Hwang could procure a deal similar to the four year, $16 mil committment (including posting fee) that Jung-ho Kang received from the Pirates last season, accounting for inflation.
As the roster currently stands, the uninspiring combination of Elian Herrera and the recently acquired Jonathan Villar figure to receive the bulk of the playing time at third base for Milwaukee. The situation is even more dire down on the farm, where the Brewers do not have one prospect listed as a third baseman in their top 30 (according to MLB Pipeline). If Hwang proves he can be an everyday player in the big leagues then he could solve the position at a relatively low cost for the next several seasons. If he can't hack it as a regular, then his contract shouldn't be the type of deal that hinders the club if he were to get moved to more of a backup/utility role.
The Brewers have increased their activity on the international market over the past several years, but they haven't signed a player from Asia since Nori Aoki in 2012. Jae-gyun Hwang represents a relatively low-risk option at third base that could pay off in spades for the Brewers over the long-term, so perhaps it would be wise for David Stearns and the Brewers to involve themselves in the bidding process.