Brett Davis, USA Today

Jae-gyun Hwang by the Numbers

The San Francisco Giants have reportedly shown and maintained interest in Korean free agent infielder Jae-gyun Hwang, so just who is he?

Jon Morossi tweeted out that the Giants have "shown continued interest" in the free agent infielder, which leads to one pertinent question: Who is this guy? 

A quick look at his Baseball Reference page shows that the Giants could certainly be onto something here. Hwang, set to enter his age 29 season in 2017, has hit .290 and .330 over the past two seasons and has launched 26 homers in each campaign. Add to that 20+ stolen bases in three of the past five seasons, and there looks to be a solid ballplayer in Hwang. 

Of course, the main question here is how the numbers would translate to Major League Baseball. The most obvious place to look for an answer would be over in Pittsburgh and Jung Ho Kang, who came over a couple of years ago, although he is a few months older than Hwang. 

Kang was a force in Korea, belting 40 homers while batting .356 with a .459 OBP in his final season before coming to the majors. While his two seasons with the Pirates haven't quite been on that level, he has averaged just over a 3 WAR. His strikeout rate has remained consistent from his days with Nexen at right around 21 percent, and while his OBP has dropped dramatically, keeping up a .459 mark is incredibly hard to do unless you're Joey Votto. He has posted OBPs of .355 and .354 in his two seasons with Pittsburgh. 

Using Kang as our reference point, what could we expect from Hwang, and is it worth it for the Giants to continue to pursue him? Kang has hit 36 homers in the majors, which is still four shy of his breakout final season in Korea, but still not a shabby number, especially for someone on the Giants 25-man. Hwang hasn't shown the kind of power numbers that Kang did before coming over, but seeing 10-15 dingers from him with some regular-ish playing time isn't out of the question. His OBP will take a hit (.390 last season), but we could still theoretically see something around .330 which would be right in line with Denard Span, Angel Pagan and Eduardo Nunez from a season ago. 

Trying to come up with a strikeout rate is a bit trickier as Hwang dropped nearly ten percent off his rate between 2015 and 2016, going from 20.5 to 12.3%. The best guess here is that he would end up somewhere in between Nunez's 15.1% and Crawford's 18.5%.

Of course this is a very rudimentary look at the kind of player the Giants could be landing, but because of the risk that's involved, the price point is going to be a big factor. For the final time we'll use Kang as a reference point. When he signed with the Pirates a couple of years ago, he was given a four year, $11M deal with an option for a fifth season. With the production that he has given them, that contract is a steal, especially if you're of the belief that each win above replacement is worth roughly $8M. Through two seasons, that would amount to about $48M in value that the Pirates have received for $5.5M. 

Now we all know that contracts have been skyrocketing on the free agent market of late, particularly among top acquisitions. Hwang isn't necessarily a top acquisition. The Korean market has certainly been providing some value, but the sample size is still pretty small. My guess would be that if the Giants were to sign Hwang to a deal he'd get a pretty similar deal to the one Kang signed. It could be for fewer years given his age, and for roughly the same amount overall, which would mean a higher average annual value, but San Francisco can afford it. They're above the luxury tax, but the money involved in this potential signing isn't enough to dissuade them from making a deal. 

If the Giants do end up adding Hwang, Crawford and Panik would be just fine in their regular roles. Hwang would be a depth add, but could potentially push a fringe player like Orlando Calixte off of the 40-man roster in order to make room. Both players have their own upside. Calixte has speed and is a bit more versatile, but he has struck out at nearly the same rate as Hwang while providing less pop if you're looking at pure numbers. He is also four years younger. Hwang could turn into a valuable asset, but finding him playing time with Panik and Crawford entrenched up the middle (barring a trade) and Christian Arroyo nearing a San Francisco debut makes for a tough situation following the upcoming season. 

Without trading away more of the core, it's hard to find an open spot for Hwang unless it's in a utility role/backup plan in case Nunez falters. Ehire Adrianza provides a backup plan, as does Kelby Tomlinson, so if Hwang does don the orange and black, it'll be because their buying into his power numbers being able to translate to the big leagues. 

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