Former Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang had been hoping to make a professional comeback in his native Korea, but he has ended that attempt, Jeehoo Yoo of Yonhap News reports. It’s unclear whether Kang will try to play again outside of the Korea Baseball Organization.
The Kiwoom Heroes hold the KBO rights over the 33-year-old Kang, who played for the club from 2010-14. Kang was successful enough in his homeland to earn a guaranteed contract from Pittsburgh, which signed him to a four-year, $11MM pact prior to the 2015 season. It looked like a wise investment for a little while, as Kang slashed a terrific .273/.355/.483 (129 wRC+) with 36 home runs and 5.8 fWAR in 837 plate appearances during his first two years in the majors. However, significant off-field problems – ones that have largely centered on issues with alcohol – have been an unfortunate part of the package.
Kang has picked up three DUI arrests, including one before the 2017 season that stopped him from securing a work visa to return from South Korea. He missed that year and almost all of 2018 as a result, and while Kang did return to the Pirates last season, he only hit .169/.222/.395 (55 wRC+) across 185 trips to the plate. Consequently, the Pirates decided to release him in August.
The likelihood is that Kang will never play in the majors again, and it no longer appears he’ll suit up in the KBO again. The league issued him a one-year suspension back in May, but that ban won’t take effect until Kang signs with one of its teams (if he does). Although the Heroes have his rights, he’s not actually a member of the team.