Pirates prospect Ji-hwan Bae is facing allegations of domestic violence, according to reports from Naver Sports (Korean language link) and Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic (subscription link). Bae has left the organization — at the request of investigators and with the team’s permission — to appear in his native South Korea.
At this point, it does not appear that charges have been filed. But the police are looking into a formal complaint from Bae’s former girlfriend, who also issued a comment to Biertempfel. She asserts that Bae physically and verbally abused her beginning on New Year’s Eve of 2017.
Bae, who is only 18 years of age, originally signed with the Braves in the fall of 2017 as an international free agent. The infielder was considered one of the most talented players available in that year’s amateur market. Not long after he had formally joined the Atlanta organization, though, Bae was declare a free agent along with numerous other amateur players as part of the penalties leveled against the Atlanta organization for impermissible signing practices.
Not long after, Bae agreed to a $1.25MM bonus with the Pirates. He had been playing in extended Spring Training thus far in 2018. Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington tells Biertempfel that the club has notified Major League Baseball as required but that Bae is presently eligible to “participate in baseball activities during this review,” though it is not clear whether there are any specific plans for whether and how he will re-join the organization.
Needless to say, the allegations are deeply troubling. Presumably, they will be investigated fully both in South Korea and by the MLB commissioner’s office. The agreement that governs domestic violence matters at the MLB level included a provision that the commissioner’s office would promulgate rules to address players, like Bae, who are not on 40-man rosters. Those do not appear to have been made available publicly, but presumably largely reflect the standards that apply to MLB players.
Under the MLB-MLBPA policy, players can be placed on paid administrative leave during an investigation and, ultimately, face suspension regardless of whether criminal authorities pursue charges. In one recent case involving a minor-league player, the Astros released Danry Vasquez after he was suspended indefinitely by MLB following a horrific episode of domestic violence.