The long and windy road that Jung Ho Kang has called a Major League Baseball career will continue with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates re-signed Jung Ho Kang. One-year deal.— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) November 8, 2018
Per Berry, Pirates GM Neal Huntington also hinted that Kang may be competing for a starting job: “If Kang plays the way Kang is capable, he has everyday opportunity here.”
Kang came to the states in 2015 and the then-28-year-old infielder delivered. He split time at shortstop and third to put up a .287/.355/.461 slash line with 24 doubles and 15 home runs in 467 plate appearances. He appeared in just 103 games the following season, but his over-the-fence power developed, smashing 21 home runs and seeing his slugging percentage rise 52 points to an impressive .513.
And then came the legal issues. While they are well-documented, the biggest takeaway was the corresponding visa suspensions that kept him out of Major League Baseball for essentially two full years. Kang played 16 games in Bradenton and Indianapolis before returning to the Pirates in September for three games, now 32 years of age. Reports were that he was released from the Dominican Winter League for his struggles, so the comment from Huntington is questionable.
At the very least, the Pirates have a player they know can hit that has position versatility at what should be a very affordable price tag.