Professional baseball may not have seen the last of Jung Ho Kang. The infielder has asked to be taken off the “voluntary retired” list for the Korea Baseball Organization, Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News tweets. However, because Kang has been arrested for driving under the influence three times, it may be a while before he plays in the KBO. As Yoo notes, the KBO subjects players with three or more DUI arrests to at least a three-year suspension.
At this point, Kang may be waving the white flag on his major league career. Now 33 years old, Kang emigrated from Korea prior to the 2015 season, signing a four-year guarantee worth $11MM. The deal worked out OK for Pittsburgh on the field, as Kang batted a solidly above-average .254/.331/.466 with 46 home runs and accounted for 4.9 fWAR across 1,028 plate appearances over the course of four seasons. However, off-field issues were an unfortunate part of the package. Along with his problems with alcohol, Kang was accused of sexual assault in June 2016. He sat out the entire 2017 season after one of his DUI arrests in his homeland of South Korea.
Kang did return last season to log a decent sample of plate appearances (185), but he slumped to a .169/.222/.395 line. The Pirates then released him in the first week of August. The division-rival Brewers showed interest in Kang shortly after that, but it has been radio silence for the most part since the Bucs moved on from him.
Despite the good offensive numbers he has posted in the majors, it doesn’t seem likely that Kang will play in the league in the immediate future. Even a return to the field in the KBO could be out of the question if a three-year ban’s on the table. Kang was quite successful there earlier in his career, though, as he batted .298/.383/.504 in 3,560 PA.