PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have played the season without third baseman Jung Ho Kang, who remains in South Korea without a work visa. They are preparing for the possibility he may not return next year, either.
Kang has been unable to acquire a work visa following his offseason arrest for driving under the influence, the third such charge against him since 2009. Kang lost his driver's license and received a suspended eight-month prison sentence. He has spent the season on the Pirates' restricted list, unpaid, working out at home with hopes of returning.
Kang hit .273/.355/.483 with 36 home runs for the Pirates from 2015-16. He is under contract for $3 million next season with a $5.5 million club option (or $250,000 buyout) in 2019. Last month, general manager Neal Huntington acknowledged Kang was unlikely to join the Bucs this year. The Pirates are optimistic, but realistic in their planning regarding Kang's status.
"That's been an unfortunate reality from the outset that he may never get a visa again," Huntington said Sunday. "We worked the process, worked the process again and have not gotten a different result. We'll attack it in different ways again the next time through and hope there is a different outcome. We do need to begin to prepare as if he's not coming back."
"Part of this [Rodriguez] acquisition was it gives us another quality infielder, gives us some power, gives us a great guy in the clubhouse and gives us another option as we go into the offseason. Gives us some depth and versatility," Huntington said. "If we're able to get Kang back into the country, then we have depth. We all of a sudden become a strong lineup with a very strong bench. We'll see how that plays out."
Meadows moving forward
Top prospect Austin Meadows is making progress in his recovery from a strained right hamstring. Currently playing with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Pirates, Meadows soon should move up to join Class A West Virginia before rejoining Triple-A Indianapolis.
Meadows, 22, has not played for Indianapolis since June 21. Since Meadows began the season in Triple-A, it seemed likely he would make his Major League debut this season. That is now in doubt.
Huntington said the Pirates have talked with Meadows and his representatives about the possibility of playing winter ball this offseason. They may decide Meadows will benefit more from an offseason strength and conditioning program, but given the playing time he lost to injuries, the outfielder could use more at-bats.
"We'll make a decision as to whether he's best served having an offseason just focused on the body or if he's in a good enough spot physically that he's able to go play maybe a half-season of winter ball," Huntington said.
The Pirates have begun identifying players they plan to call up when rosters expand from 25 to 40 players on Sept. 1. Meadows may not be one of them.
"If we continue to push in the right direction, September is not a tryout camp anymore, as it was in our first three years here," Huntington said. "While Austin can do a lot of really good things, it may not be in his best interest to be in a smaller role. It may be in his best interest to continue to rest to get ready for winter ball or just get into an offseason program."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.