Huntington: Bucs face decision on Kang's future

Pitching coach Searage to undergo neck surgery

September 16th, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- Pirates general manager Neal Huntington faces a decision this offseason about whether to pick up a $5.5 million club option on infielder .

On one hand, Kang has tremendous power and can play dependable defense. On the other hand, he has not appeared in a big league game since 2016 because of legal issues and injuries.

"It's a great question," Huntington said before Sunday's series finale against the Brewers at Miller Park. "We wish we had more data."

Kang, 31, hit .287 with 15 homers and 58 RBIs in 126 games in his first season with the Pirates in 2015. He flashed even more power in '16 with 21 homers and 62 RBIs in 103 games.

However, Kang was arrested for driving under the influence in December 2016 after his alleged involvement in a hit-and-run crash. His work visa to enter the United States was revoked until this year.

Injuries have also prevented Kang from making his return. He underwent surgery on his left wrist in early August, but it is possible that he could return before the end of the regular season.

"He's worked hard," Huntington said. "He's done everything that he can do, and he's still continuing to keep the foot on the gas to try to get back here. He's started to swing a bat again, and hopefully can get some at-bats in Florida in the near future, and then we'll see where we are. Is there a chance we can get a handful up here at the end of the year? We'll keep that door open."

As for next season, Huntington and the club must weigh risk versus reward in bringing back Kang.

"We'll see where this market takes us," Huntington said. "We like the player, we like the upside. Obviously, to add a right-handed bat that can hit 25 to 30 home runs and play good defense, if we can get him back to that, that's a really interesting player. But we also haven't seen that player in two years. So if there's a middle ground, hopefully we'll be able to find it."

Kang could return to become a productive, everyday player. Or not. It's tough to predict.

"It's really hard to put a probability on that because it's a unique situation," Huntington said. "It's one thing when a player misses time due to injury, he gets healthy and he comes back.

"This is another one where he missed a full year because he just couldn't play. He couldn't report to work. So how do you balance the full year when he couldn't report to work with a partial year because he couldn't report to work and then a partial year because he was injured?

"We do know the desire is still there. We do know he wants to help this team. We do know he wants to be a good Major League player. That's the foundation that you work to build off of, it's just how aggressively do you build?"

Searage to have surgery

Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage will undergo cervical neck surgery this week, the team announced before Sunday's game against the Brewers. Assistant pitching coach Justin Meccage will serve as interim pitching coach while Searage recovers.

Searage, 63, has been the Pirates' pitching coach since Aug. 8, 2010.

"We look forward for Ray resuming his pitching-coach duties in the near future," Huntington said in a statement. "We wish him the best during the procedure and subsequent recovery."