KBO Star Ha-Seong Kim Signing With the San Diego Padres

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Korean superstar and former Kiwoom Heroes’ shortstop Ha-Seong Kim is signing a deal with the San Diego Padres. With the Ha-Seong Kim signing, the Padres have added infield depth, though Kim will not be their starting shortstop on opening day. The day after adding star starting pitcher Blake Snell, the Padres have made another splash.

The 25-year-old shortstop was drafted 29th overall in the 2014 KBO draft and has played seven seasons in the KBO before being posted on December 7th. Rumors are Ha-Seong Kim signing with a major league club would be a five-year, $40-60M contract that has been out for the past couple of weeks.

Ha-Seong Kim Signing: San Diego Padres

The San Diego Padres have added infield depth with the Ha-Seong Kim signing, but Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado already lock up the left side, where Kim made most of his KBO appearances. Kim will likely slide over to second, and Rookie of the Year finalist Jake Cronenworth might move to LF.

Last offseason, the Padres traded for Rays’ left fielder Tommy Pham, but he missed much of 2020 due to injury, then was stabbed in October. Pham is one of the league’s best at left field, so platooning or benching him doesn’t make much sense. Since 2017, Pham has a 129 wRC+ and 13.5 WAR but hasn’t been able to replicate his 2017 success (6.2 fWAR).

Kim is known for his defensive prowess and depth charts project him as a 2.2 win player in 2021. Of course, Machado is an elite defender at third, but Tatis Jr. is an inconsistent fielder at shortstop. Cronenworth played great defense at 2B (3 OAA) but his sample-size is obviously too small to make a concrete decision on his defense.

The San Diego Padres now have nine starting-caliber position players, and only eight positions, assuming that there is no DH in the National League. Cronenworth and Pham are both players who can’t be left out of a starting lineup. Cronenworth, who was never a top prospect, made his MLB debut in 2020 and put up a 125 wRC+ and 1.4 fWAR in 54 games. He also had great peripheral stats (.383 xwOBA, 15.6% K%, 9.4% BB%). Cronenworth could also be the main piece in a potential deal for Cubs’ starting pitcher, Yu Darvish.

With the Ha-Seong Kim signing, the Padres’ potential starting lineup (no DH) could look like this:

  1. Trent Grisham, CF
  2. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS
  3. Manny Machado, 3B
  4. Tommy Pham, LF
  5. Wil Myers, RF
  6. Eric Hosmer, 1B
  7. Austin Nola, C
  8. Jake Cronenworth/Ha-Seong Kim, 2B
  9. Ha-Seong Kim Signing: Kim

Although the terms of the deal are still unknown, the Blue Jays offered Kim a five-year deal, and Daniel Kim of ESPN reported that the shortstop was mulling multiple five-year deals. For now, it appears that Kim’s deal will be for five seasons in San Diego.

Kim has been considered as a super-utility man by some teams and could make appearances in the infield and outfield for the Padres. Kim hit .307 in the past two seasons with the Heroes, and in 138 games in 2020, he had a 141 wRC+. His role could be similar to that of Cavan Biggio‘s in Toronto, but it is unknown how the San Diego Padres plan on using their rookie shortstop.

Kim was a great hitter in the KBO, but there haven’t been any great examples of position players translating into productive MLB players. The Ha-Seong Kim signing with the Padres allows Kim to earn a starting job at second, and if they move Myers in a potential Darvish trade, he’ll surely get the everyday job.

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James Valentinas is a 17-year-old Cubs, Knicks, and Bears fan who loves to write about his favorite teams.