Third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang suggested in an interview with Korean media that he expects to opt out of his contract with the Giants if he is not added to the major league roster in the coming days (via Jee-ho Yoo of Yonhap News Agency). Hwang’s deal allows him to force the team to promote or release him on July 1st.
There have been indications at times that the Giants would like to see Hwang in the majors, but recent events raise questions about the team’s current intentions. San Francisco promoted prospect Ryder Jones to handle third base, adding him to the 40-man roster in the process. He has struggled in his first three games, but the Giants seem inclined to give Jones and other young players (including, perhaps, previously promoted infielder Christian Arroyo) a chance in the majors with the club buried in the standings.
Hwang, 29, inked a split contract over the winter in hopes of reaching the majors after years of starring in his native Korea. He has put up solid overall numbers at Triple-A, thriving in particular since an early-season swoon. Since hitting his first home run in the middle of May, Hwang has produced at a .287/.348/.566 clip and added six more long balls to his ledger. He has also made strides in the plate-discipline department, drawing 14 walks against 31 strikeouts in that span.
Defensively, the longtime KBO star has plenty of experience at third base. But there were prior suggestions that he might be afforded a chance to increase his versatility by spending time in the corner outfield. That hasn’t been forthcoming thus far — he lined up in left twice earlier in the year — and Hwang has mostly played first base for Sacramento over the last month or so.
Given that Hwang is slated to return to the open market at the end of the season regardless, it’s not clear how much incentive the Giants have at this point to add him to the roster. The organization would need to create 40-man space and also pay Hwang at a $1.5MM annual rate, in addition to any incentives he might trigger.
If Hwang does end up returning to the open market, he’d likely find opportunities with other organizations. While the bat is obviously interesting, though, it’s still not clear whether there’ll be a big league opening for him in 2017. Given his status as one of Korea’s top sluggers, Hwang could also presumably end up returning to the KBO at some point.