Things have been relatively quiet on the transaction front for the Milwaukee Brewers for awhile now, with their only action dating back to the middle of last month being the minor league signing of Cody Decker. That doesn’t mean that Slingin’ David Stearns hasn’t been working the phones, however; the club is still searching for help on the relief market and earlier today, the club was linked to a free agent infielder.
According to Mike Bernadino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Brewers are one of four teams (along with the Tigers, Giants, and Twins) that have expressed interest in Korean import Jae-gyun Hwang. The 29 year old has spent the last ten years in the KBO and has generally been a strong performer, but he’s seemingly taken his game to the next level over the past three seasons. He owns a .782 OPS in 1,175 career games, but has posted OPS marks of .864, .870, and .949 across 2014-16 and slugged 26 home runs in each of the last two seasons after topping 10 long balls only thrice in his first eight seasons.
Bernadino goes on to state that Hwang has a four year offer to return to the KBO, but that he wants to test himself versus MLB competition. Hwang’s coming to America is contingent on getting a 40-man roster slot, as opposed to the minor league deals that he’s been getting; speculatively, perhaps he would be amicable to a major league deal that gives him a spot on the 40 man roster, but comes with the ability to be optioned to the minor leagues (unlike someone like Hyun-soo Kim, who cannot be optioned to the minors without his consent per the terms of his contract).
The Brewers showed they are willing to roll the dice on KBO talent when they guaranteed Eric Thames $16 mil earlier this winter on the strength of his brilliant three year run in Korea, and our own Jaymes profiled Hwang as a potential free agent target for Milwaukee prior to the Winter Meetings. Milwaukee has since acquired Travis Shaw from Boston and he’s now penciled in at third base, Hwang’s primary position, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a fit.
2080 Baseball’s Dave DeFreitas scouted Hwang while he was in Korea and concluded that his best role would be as a utility player rather than an everyday option at the hot corner, anyway. Hwang has an average hit tool and passable glove to go along with an average arm, and could perhaps take up some second base or adopt a “true corner” utility profile - playing first base, left field, and right field in addition to his natural home at third - in order to increase his versatility and value to a roster. The right handed hitting Hwang could theoretically platoon with lefty swinging Travis Shaw at third base, as well.
It’s arguable that Hernan Perez already fills a sort of redundant role for Milwaukee, but Hwang shouldn’t command much more than a $2-3 mil guarantee (and no posting fee, as he’s earned enough KBO service time to reach international free agency) and it wouldn’t be too tough to fit him into the roster equation, especially if he’s willing to accept an assignment to the minor leagues as long as he’s still on the 40 man roster. That’s a low-risk expenditure that the Brewers and their league-low payroll could surely afford, and Hwang could prove to be a bargain at that price if his bat can translate to be something close to a league-average hitter.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference