Ever since the departure of former shortstop Jack Wilson, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been searching for an everyday player who could potentially become their franchise shortstop.  

Wilson had a successful career in Pittsburgh, serving primarily as the Pirates’ everyday shortstop from 2001-2009.  In 1,159 career games with the Pirates, Wilson batted .269 with 60 home runs, or roughly 10 home runs per season.  

Current shortstop Jordy Mercer seemed to be on the track to stardom in Pittsburgh after batting .285 in 103 games in 2013 before seeing his numbers drop off last season (.255 average in 149 games).  

Mercer certainly could continue to serve as an everyday shortstop for the Pirates, as he has managed to remain healthy and in the lineup throughout his short career.  However, a change may be on the horizon for the Pirates.  

The Pirates made headlines in December when Tom Singer of MLB.com reported that the team had won the bidding rights to Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang.

The 27-year-old shortstop has played nine seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, owning a career batting average of .298 with 139 home runs 3,070 at bats.  His best year came in 2014 when he blasted 40 home runs and collected 117 RBI in 117 games.  

If the Pirates go on to sign Kang, it would be difficult to predict how his statistics from playing in the KBO would translate to the major league level.  After all, only two South Korean-born position players have made the transfer to Major League Baseball.  

Shin-Soo Choo is the most notable of the couple.  Aside from his down year in 2014, Choo has been a major league success story, batting .282 in 10 major league seasons.  

The Pirates would welcome that kind of talent to their lineup with open arms, and if Kang could make a smooth transition, the Pirates may have found their franchise shortstop for years to come.  


Jordy Mercer as a Trade Chip

Assuming the Pirates do go ahead and sign Kang to a major league deal, Mercer would likely be left on the roster without a starting job.  After all, the Pirates probably aren’t going to be willing to dish out a great deal of money for someone who will platoon with Mercer at shortstop.  

Could general manager Neal Huntington have Mercer in the back of his mind as a potential trade chip?  It is hard to imagine that he wouldn’t be shopping Mercer if the deal with Kang gets done.  

It is not as if the Pirates do not already have tremendous talent at the other middle-infield position, as second baseman Neil Walker has emerged as one of the most reliable second basemen in the league and has added a Silver Slugger Award to his name.

The main weakness on the Pirates’ depth chart is in their starting pitching rotation, although they were able to bolster it by bringing back Francisco Liriano on a three-year deal.  

Perhaps trading Mercer along with a couple of prospects could be enough to land a quality starting pitcher who could put the Pirates over the top for 2015.  At the same time, however, keeping Mercer as a backup would be a great asset for the organization as well.  

After today, the Pirates will have just 19 days left to sign Kang, as the window for signing someone after winning the bidding rights to an international player is just 30 days.  

If the organization is successful in signing Kang, it could become one of the key signings of Huntington’s reign as general manager of the team.  


*Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com


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