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Jung Ho Kang reportedly denied visa, putting season in doubt

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

According to a report from Naver Sports in Korea, the US government has denied Jung Ho Kang a work visa. The link is in Korean, and the Google translation isn't entirely clear, but it evidently says Kang's chances of playing for the Pirates in 2017 are now in doubt. Another report in Korea evidently indicates Kang's appeal of his DUI punishment in Korea could positively affect his visa status, although more won't be known about that for awhile. Clint Hurdle told MLB Network Radio today that he's unsure of the chances Kang will play this season.

This is big news for the Pirates, who might now have to play 2017 with David Freese and others at third base and be without Kang, one of their best offensive players. Kang's potential inability to play in the US for the foreseeable future would likely dramatically affect how the Pirates think about him as an asset, although, as Wilbur points out in the comments, Kang's presence on the restricted list will prevent the Bucs from having to pay him in the meantime.

Obviously, Kang's availability would also appear to significantly impact the Bucs' chances of competing this season. The difference between a full season of Kang and Freese (and the domino effect on the Pirates' bench that will result) is likely around a couple of wins, dampening the outlook of a Pirates' team that probably figured to end up somewhere near the fringes of the playoff race.

Kang, of course, left the scene of a DUI crash in Korea during the offseason, and it subsequently emerged that he had had two prior DUI incidents in Korea that the Pirates weren't aware of. He has remained in South Korea throughout spring training so far dealing with legal and visa issues stemming from the crash. He was convicted there and sentenced to eight months in jail, although that sentence was suspended. Kang was also accused of, but not charged with, sexual assault last summer in the US, although the visa decision appears to have more to do with the DUI issues.