If you have been reading our winter league coverage, this comes as no shock. Aguilas Cibaenas have released third baseman Jung-Ho Kang according to Jeeho Yoo from Yonhap News.

I mentioned this week and again this morning that Kang hasn’t been on the daily roster this weekend. In the Dominican, teams submit 28-man rosters each day. Kang was replaced in the starting spot early last week by Johan Camargo, who made his big league debut with the Atlanta Braves this year. When Camargo needed to go home to Panama this weekend, not only was Kang not back in his starting spot, but he wasn’t on the bench, which obviously wasn’t a good sign.

Kang struggled from the beginning in the Dominican, never getting on track as a hitter. He had three weeks of preseason work there, as well as some exhibition games, so he had a chance to shake off some of the rust before entering the league. His hitting actually got worse as the season went along and he finished with a .143/.219/.202 slash line in 24 games. Those numbers rank him last among league leaders in each category, while his 31 strikeouts lead the league. His defense was apparently solid after making four errors in his first ten games.

For someone with the Major League experience that Kang has, he should have performed much better than he did in the league. He didn’t play last year, but he was staying in shape during the season in case the Pirates were able to get him a visa to come to the U.S. When you add in that the Dominican league is about equal to Triple-A ball as far as talent, he really had a tough time in the league. He was scheduled to remain in the league until the last day of the regular season on December 21st and his September 22nd arrival in the Dominican coincided with his 90-day limit to stay in the country.¬†Players from South Korea can spend 90 days in the Dominican Republic without a visa.

It’s not unusual for foreign players to get released from winter leagues for poor performance, but usually that call is made much sooner. Kang seemed to get a break due to his track record in the majors. We have seen Pirates over the years, who were foreign to their league, get released after a slow first week, but none of them had the big league success that Kang had. So now we wait to see if the Pirates can get him to the U.S. for the 2018 season.

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30 COMMENTS

  1. I know he was working out, but that’s different than facing live pitchers trying to get you out, and I’m sure frustration set in when he struggled at the start, since he probably realizes these are guys he should be able to hit.

    The larger concern with Kang is whether or not he’ll be a Pirate again (and for me, whether or not I can root for him if he does get back into the states), not whether or not he’ll hit provided he does come back to the States. He’ll hit. He’ll figure it out. There’s too much talent there. But one year off is a lot of rust to shake off, work outs or no.

  2. Thanks for the info and the link to the Korean website. Kang’s status brings up a question that you may be able to answer. Kang has a 4 yr contract and has fulfilled 2 of the years. He lost last year and may loose 2018. What us Kang’s actual contract status now? Does he have 1 or 2 yrs left on it and what would the Buccos spend to just release him? Thanks for the info in advance.

  3. Given the money spent on Kang to date, their power starved lineup, his past success in Pittsburgh, and the fact that he does have 3 options, the Pirates are not likely to let him go anytime soon. I suspect they will just have him take some time off and get ready for ST – while the team tries to get his Visa issue addressed.

    You would think he is properly motivated to succeed and get his life and career turned around – so, from that standpoint, it is shocking that he performed so poorly in the DR league. Maybe he was pressing too hard.

    • Good points; I agree; I still don’t get why this visa issue is still just that, an issue. What exactly needs to be finalized here, one way or the other, to determine if he is coming back or not? I just don’t get this!!

      • One of my friends works at a large company in Pgh. One of their lawyers used to work in the federal attorney’s staff. This man said the biggest problem is that Kang lied on his original visa application by failing to report the 2 previous DWIs. He doesn’t see Kang ever getting another visa.

        • Well, o.k. then, fine. Then whomever the powers that be are, they need to communicate this decision to MLB and the Pirates, so that everyone can move the hell on. Now, maybe that has already been done. If it has, why are the Pirates being quiet about it? All we can do as fans is speculate, but frankly, it just makes no sense to me to drag this process out to a nauseating extent. ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!!!!!!

    • But to me, the question is can the Pirates, or for that matter any other team get involved with his visa issues? Hypothetically speaking, let’s say the Pirates assist in getting him his visa so that he can come back to the U.S. and play for the Pirates. But he happens to relapse and get another DUI / DWI and at the same time he either injures or kills another driver or passenger in another vehicle or a pedestrian. To me, some liability could be put on the Pirates for making the effort to get him the visa, knowing full well of his drinking issues and his previous DUIs / DWIs. And it doesn’t have to be just one person injured or killed. It could be multiple. I just don’t think the Pirates brass will put themselves on the line like that. There is simply too much risk.

  4. I’ve been curious about this….

    Is Kang signed for specific years, or a specific amount of time?

    If, hypothetically, he came back at the beginning of 2018, would his contract be pushed forward and he’d be obligated under the old deal for 2018-19 with an option for 2020 since he was ineligible to play last season? Or just 2018 with an option for 2019?

    I’m assuming it’s the former, but just curious for clarification sake.

    Also, does he have a stipulation that he becomes a free agent at the end of the contract? Again, assuming he comes back and plays out the final two years of his deal…that would leave him with four years service time….do the Pirates still control his rights and he gets two years of arbitration, or is he a free to sign with other teams?

    As you might guess from the tone of the questions…yes, I’m desperately holding out hope that Kang will remember how to hit a ball and be able to get a visa…

    • I’ve wondered the same thing. Sometimes in the NFL, guys contracts get “tolled” — carried forward to future years. Mike Adams was one. Josh Gordon another. Martavis Bryant, I think.
      .
      I doubt the MLBPA allowed such a concept in their CBA.

      • Thanks, kinda thought that was the way it would go.

        Now let’s see what happens…if he can’t hit anymore, which is odd, I suppose the best to hope for is that he doesn’t get a visa…otherwise he will be eligible and the Pirates will be paying

  5. Sad to see. Kang was a gift when the Pirates got him. Played much better then anticipated or could be expected. Then he was involved in the take out slide at second base causing a knee injury that kept him idol. I guess he became depressed and started to drink and the drink took hold of him, like it does with so many others. A waste of talent. Sorry to see him like this.

    • He apparently had the drinking problem before the knee injury. Remember, he had two DUI’s in Korea before the one in December 2016. I don’t know the time element of those DUI’s relative to the knee injury, but my impression is that they were before the knee injury occurred, Plus, he made it back from the knee injury, and had something like 12 million reasons not to get depressed and start drinking, if that is what really happened, which I don’t think is actually the case.

  6. He has had a rough couple of years. I think he had a problem adjusting to the DR. Totally different culture. He needs to get his work visa and hopefully gets back on track for spring training.

  7. Time to move on? Hard to pass up his past efforts though…IF he gets a visa, I expect he will start in INDY. He has options, John?

    • I have heard people say this and I don’t know what it means. Move on how? Emotionally: fine for fans, you have permission. Financially: nothing to do. either he plays or he doesn’t. he’s not taking up a spot, he’s not earning salary, he can just be in limbo until the end of next year at no cost.

      Is there a different “move on”?

      • My sense, Arik, is it means to simply find out definitively if he is going to get the visa and thus be in the Pirates plans for 2018 or not. This ongoing and lingering discussion of the Pirates finding out whether Kang will be back or not is just ridiculous to me. Whatever legal red tape there is that prevented Kang from obtaining a visa during the course of 2017 has, I would have to think, been clearly identified and thus, will also be the same issue moving forward. Why is it taking such an exorbitant amount of time to determine, yes, he will be back in 2018 or no he won’t be back in 2018? When are we going to know, one way or the other, and why is it taking so freaking long?

        • Having ben there and seen our government at work, when it is motivated and someone is pushing rigorously (and paying for the legal talent) getting Kang back into the US screams that the PNC never made the necessary effort.

          • So, are you saying that it’s the Pirates who are not really sincere in wanting to get Kang back to the U.S. and in a Bucs uniform? If so, that’s quite a head-scratcher to say the least.

      • It will be interesting to see how his strength/power improves now that his back injury (pun intended) is behind him.

    • I don’t like that move…looking at Harrison’s numbers over the past two seasons, they’re not much different than Freese’s.

      I’d say that a lot of Harrison’s value comes from the fact that he’s putting up these numbers at a position where a heavy bat isn’t as important…putting him at 3rd exposes his light power and average OPS.

      • Thus a bridge one year (with Harrison) , and see if the kid can progress ( I still think Harrison is not wearing gold and black come Spring) …Hayes is already projected to hit…now see if the power comes with health. I am hoping Moroff bumps Frazier/SRod to a super sub/4th OFer. With SRod at 3rd >50% of his time.

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