Pittsburgh Pirates make Kang Jung-ho a free agent

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Pittsburgh Pirates make Kang Jung-ho a free agent

The Pittsburgh Pirates have declined their option on Korean infielder Kang Jung-ho, making him a free agent this offseason.

The Pirates’ website showed on Wednesday that Kang elected free agency as of Monday. No further details were provided, but the decision meant that the Pirates declined to pick up their $5.5 million option on the 31-year-old player.

This doesn’t necessarily spell the end of Kang’s career with the Pirates, as they can still sign him as a free agent.

Kang just completed his four-year deal worth $11 million. The former All-Star shortstop in the KBO put up solid numbers as third baseman for the Pirates in 2015 and 2016. But legal issues and injury kept him off the field for the entire 2017 season and most of this year.

In December 2016, Kang was charged with fleeing the scene of an accident after driving under the influence of alcohol in Seoul, and received a suspended jail term three months later. He was denied a U.S. work visa, which prevented him from joining the Pirates.

Kang got his work permit in April this year and began playing in the minor leagues in June. Then he came down with a left wrist sprain later that month and underwent surgery on Aug. 3, which threatened to end his comeback bid.

But Kang was called up for the Pirates’ final regular season series against the Cincinnati Reds, and batted 2-for-6 in three games.

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