Pittsburgh Pirates: Kang acts as question in quest for contention

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates bringing back Jung Ho Kang on a one year deal is a low-risk signing that could produce a high reward for the team.

To say the last two and a half years of Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang’s life have been tumultuous would be an understatement. Kang has had trouble with DUIs in his native South Korea and was absent from the Pirates roster for all of 2017 and all but the last three games in 2018.

After having his club option declined at the end of the 2018 season, Kang became a free agent. However, his time on the market was limited due to the Pirates offering him a one year deal worth up to $3 million including $2.5 million in performance bonuses.

With many ups and downs on the field that troubled Kang in his comeback to the team, he is a wild card that the Pirates can only hope will come back to the form in which he hit .274 with 36 home runs and 120 RBIs in 232 career games dawning the black and gold.

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Kang’s return started in the Dominican Winter League in September of 2017. In 24 games with his club in the Dominican Republic, Kang batted .143 with one home run and ten runs batted in. The South Korean posted a .219 on-base percentage and was released by the team due to poor play.

On the flip side, in 2018 Kang came back and played with Bradenton and Indianapolis before making an appearance in those three games with the Pirates in Cincinnati at the end of the season. Kang played three months in the minor leagues and missed time due to a wrist injury that required surgery in August. Kang made 71 plate appearances. The third baseman batted .310 with three home runs and 16 RBIs. Finally, he recorded two hits in six at-bats against the Reds before the season ended.

As beloved as Kang was to Pirate fans in his first two seasons, the complete opposite has arisen due to the sensitivity of his arrests. However, as stated before, this is a smart move for the Pirates, only taking the baseball aspect into consideration.

Kang is being paid next to nothing and could provide to be a more effective version of David Freese at third base, platooning with Colin Moran. Kang has shown that he has power in his bat and that he is a solid defensive player. Being a right-handed batter, Kang can play against left-handed pitching and can prove to be effective.

Off the field, Kang has gone through many different scenarios in order to get his behavior under control. Kang also strengthened his religious beliefs after being baptized into Christianity earlier this offseason.

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Expectations for Kang may be low, however, he has a huge upside and can be a big part in make the Pirates a contender in 2019.