PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates on Wednesday declined their 2019 club options for second baseman Josh Harrison and third baseman Jungho Kang, as expected. Both players are now free agents.The Bucs bought out Harrison's option, which would have paid him $10.5 million, for $1 million. This was also the final guaranteed
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates on Wednesday declined their 2019 club options for second baseman Josh Harrison and third baseman Jungho Kang, as expected. Both players are now free agents.
The Bucs bought out Harrison's option, which would have paid him $10.5 million, for $1 million. This was also the final guaranteed season of Kang's four-year, $11 million contract; the deal included a $5.5 million option for next year, which Pittsburgh bought out for $250,000.
At the end of the season, general manager Neal Huntington wouldn't rule out the possibility of bringing back either player or shortstop Jordy Mercer, who became a free agent on Monday. Huntington said the club would "keep the door open to Jordy and Josh and see where their markets go."
Before the last game of the season, Huntington used a similar phrase -- "keep that door open" -- to describe their continued interest in Kang, who will turn 32 in April. The Pirates could attempt to sign Kang to a new deal. They have an exclusive negotiating window before free agents are able to sign with any club on Friday at 5 p.m. ET.
"If we don't [pick up his option], we'd have significant interest in seeing if there's a middle ground where it makes sense to have him come back," Huntington said on Sept. 30. "And if Kang plays the way Kang is capable, he has [an] everyday opportunity here."
When the Pirates traded Andrew McCutchen in January, Harrison became the club's longest-tenured player. He broke into the big leagues in 2011, two years after the Bucs acquired him from the Cubs, and he kicked around as a bench player for three seasons. Then, Harrison broke out in 2014, making the All-Star team and finishing ninth in the National League MVP Award voting as Pittsburgh returned to the NL Wild Card Game.
That performance pushed the Pirates to sign Harrison to a four-year, $27.3 million contract extension in April 2015. Harrison became an everyday player, battled through various injuries and made another All-Star team in '17. This season, Harrison was hampered by hand and hamstring injuries as he hit just .250/.293/.363 with eight homers, 37 RBIs and three steals in 97 games.
Harrison said several times that his primary goal was to finish the season healthy. He had only 46 plate appearances in 18 games, including nine starts, after Aug. 17, as he nursed a sore hamstring. The Pirates still honored Harrison and Mercer, former Minor League roommates and longtime friends, during their final home game at PNC Park on Sept. 23.
"I take a lot of pride in it. Both he and I, as we came up through the Minor Leagues, we won. When we were coming up, we knew we had a chance to help this team up here," Harrison said on Sept. 30. "We were able to get up here and help win some meaningful games. I think it's something both he and I envisioned even when we were in the Minor Leagues."
"They gave me a shot. I was drafted by the Cubs but traded over here. I signed a contract here. They gave me my first shot. That's something I don't take lightly. Baseball doesn't define me, but I definitely appreciated them taking a shot on me. I gave them everything I had, and we'll see what happens."
Kang could not enter the United States last year following a December 2016 DUI arrest in South Korea, which was later revealed to be his third such charge since 2009. He received a work visa in late April, completed a modified Spring Training program in May, and he played 16 games for Class A Advanced Bradenton and Triple-A Indianapolis. He was then sidelined by pain in his left wrist, which required surgery on Aug. 3.
Kang joined the Pirates for their final series of the season in Cincinnati, where he went 2-for-6 and made one start at third base. He hit .273/.355/.483 with 36 home runs and 120 RBIs in 229 games in 2015 and '16.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.