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Giants interested in Jae-gyun Hwang

The Giants’ search for power might take them to Korea

South Korea v USA - WBSC Premier 12 Final Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images

Good morning! It’s a morning rumor! Even better is that it’s an unexpected rumor, which are the best kind. They open the sinuses. And according to Jon Morosi, the Giants are “showing continued interest” in infielder Jae-gyun Hwang.

Well, I know exactly how to feel about this.

[frantically googles]

And I will share these strong opinions on my blog site.

[frantically googles some more]

Because, yes, you should definitely feel a particular way about this rumor, and it is my job to convince you of this.

Hwang is a 29-year-old third baseman, and he bats right-handed, so he doesn’t appear to be the best complement for Eduardo Nuñez at first glance. But if the Giants are looking to upgrade, not supplement, it’s possible that Hwang would be their best chance of doing it inexpensively. He’s coming off a career season, hitting .330/.391/.558 with 26 homers, though he did it in a league where the average hitter hit .290/.364/.438, so take those numbers with a couple grains of salt even before you get to the difference in competition.

Still, the offensive success of Jung-ho Kang and Hyun-soo Kim over the last couple years has increased the attention on players like Hwang who mow through the KBO. Internet writer and boring podcast personality Jeff Sullivan wrote about him here:

But, in 2015, Hwang’s strikeout rate was 9% higher than average. In 2016, his strikeout rate was 26% lower than average. Hwang repeated his best power season, while also having his best-ever contact season.

That gets a guy noticed. That buys a guy the benefit of the doubt. You can’t do what Hwang did without making some challenging adjustments, but now his swing is closer than ever to being major-league ready. I’m sure it’s not perfect, and I’m sure there are some kinks to be worked out, but you can understand why the game would find Hwang an awful lot more interesting these days.

Hwang’s strikeout-to-walk ratio was nearly 1:1, which means Bobby Evans got a text alert sent to his phone. While the interest in him was limited enough last year that he didn’t even receive a single bid after he was posted, there should be a couple teams willing to give him a guaranteed contract after the season he just put up. The Giants probably wouldn’t be alone in their interest.

Personally, I think Hwang has MVP potential. If you aren’t so sure, consider the evidence.

Hwang turned his face slide into a combination face-slide-beans-tag, so Posey still has something to learn from him. This is a pairing made in heaven, really.

Viva El Birdos likes Hwang’s swing:

First off, I like the swing. A lot. He keeps the front elbow flexed through contact, not overextending, and uses his torso very well to generate the torque and bat speed needed to hit the ball a long way. The pitch he hit for a homer in that first at-bat came in about 97 mph, so at the very least we can assume he’s capable of turning around good velocity if it’s in a bad location. He just misses another homer in his third trip to the plate, getting slightly under a fastball at 94.

Sold. And there’s a chance that his power would translate to the majors, even at AT&T Park. This isn’t just a slap-hitting middle infielder; this might be the Giants’ best to get more power in the lineup.

I can’t shake the feeling that something is up with the Giants and their middle infielders, though. Rather than non-tender Ehire Adrianza, they gave him a guaranteed contract. They signed Jimmy Rollins to a minor-league deal. They didn’t just sign Orlando Calixte to a minor-league deal, they signed him to a deal and immediately put him on the 40-man roster to avoid losing him in the Rule 5 draft. They brought Ramiro Peña back. They signed Juniel Querecuto, who spent last season in the upper minors, and they’ll still have Kelby Tomlinson, who just might be overqualified for a utility gig.

What would they do with Hwang? Or, rather, what would they do to the current roster to make Hwang seem like a necessity rather than a luxury?

Still thinking that Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker should check in with MLB Trade Rumors every day to make sure they still have a starting job. I don’t know exactly which dominos would fall for the Giants to trade for a veteran left fielder — and I don’t know if the Tigers are even considering rebuilding/reloading at this point, so that affects my plans for sweet, sweet J.D. Martinez — but it would be hard to see them signing Hwang and having a steel cage match for the other six infielders in Scottsdale.

If the Giants really see Hwang as an impact hitter, though, someone who could put up Todd Frazier numbers without costing a prospect in trade, they could sign him first and worry about the rest later. They are “showing continued interest,” after all.


Huh, I say.

The Giants signing Hwang is a great idea unless he can’t hit baseballs well in the major leagues, in which case it would be a bad idea. That’s a scouting report you can take to the bank. Please credit McCovey Chronicles when you reference it in the future. Thank you.