The Pittsburgh Pirates have scouted Seung-Hwan Oh, a right-handed closer out of Korea, according to a report linked by MLBTR (via Bucs Dugout). Oh is preparing to make the jump to the United States, and the Pirates were one of the teams listed as having seen him over the last two years, with the Yankees, Orioles, and Mariners also listed.
This situation is unlike the situation last year with Jung-ho Kang. Oh isn’t subject to the posting system, which means he could sign with any team that he wants to sign with. You’d have to wonder if Kang’s presence on the Pirates might be a big selling point to get Oh. The Pirates don’t have a closer role for him, and currently they don’t have an eighth inning role either. That said, playing with the most notable ex-KBO player in the US right now might have some appeal. His representative said that the important thing is “an environment where Oh can show his best ability.” So it’s hard to say just how much appeal Kang’s presence would have.
I’ve mentioned during the early part of the off-season that this might be a good time for the Pirates to sell high on Mark Melancon. As the MLBTR article notes, the closer market is thin this off-season. Melancon has been one of the best relievers in baseball the last three years, and would probably fetch a huge return on the trade market this off-season. The Pirates would have Tony Watson ready to step in as the closer, and if they could add Oh to the mix (and if he makes a successful jump to the US), then it would be easier to part with Melancon.
Oh is going to be 33 on Opening Day, turning 34 at mid-season. That, plus the fact that he hasn’t pitch in the majors, could keep the price down. He does have great stats in his time between the KBO and Japan, with a 1.96 ERA, a 10.7 K/9, and a 2.1 BB/9. Considering the KBO is a massive hitter’s league, those numbers are pretty impressive. He can hit 97 MPH with his fastball, but usually sits 92-94, according to the MLBTR report. He also throws a slider and a slow curveball.
Here is a video of Oh.