Jung Ho Kang Elects Free Agency
Even though Pittsburgh Pirates’ infielder Jung Ho Kang has elected free agency, that does not mean his Pirate career is over
According to the transactions page on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ website, infielder Jung Ho Kang has elected free agency. This, obviously, would indicate that the team did not pick up Kang’s $5.5 million option for the 2019 season.
Kang’s option being declined is not a big surprise. After missing all of 2017 due to work visa issues, Kang, partially due to wrist surgery, saw just six MLB at bats in 2018. All six of these at bats came during the Pirates’ season-ending three-game series in Cincinnati.
Paying Kang $5.5 million in 2019 could have been a bit of a risk for the Pirates. While Kang looked like his old self in the minor leagues this season, and during his series in Cincy, hitting the ball with success and authority, he has not been a Major League regular since 2016.
That said, there is still a good chance Kang is a Pirate in 2019.
During September, Pirate GM Neal Huntington said the Bucs and Kang were both interested in a reunion for 2019, even if his option was not picked up. In all honesty, it would not be a surprise if the two already have a handshake agreement on the outline of a deal to keep Kang in Pittsburgh.
From the Pirates’ standpoint, it would make sense to give Kang an incentive ladened contract. Paying Kang in accordance to games played and success at the plate in 2019 would be the best option for the Pirates. And, odds are, if he is a Pirate in 2019 this is how his contract will work.
Bringing Kang back could bolster the Pirate bench while providing the team with the additional power it lacked in 2018. Kang overtaking Colin Moran for the third base job would not be a surprise, either. If Kang can be anywhere near the hitter he has been in his MLB career (.208 ISO, .482 slugging percentage, .361 wOBA, 129 wRC+) he would easily be one of the team’s two or three best hitters, and possibly their best power hitter. This makes bringing him back on a reduced deal in 2019 a worthwhile gamble.