Ha-Seong Kim To Red Sox? Why Korean Star Might Make Sense For Boston

Let's talk about one of the most intriguing free agents available

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December 7, 2020

Will the Red Sox make a splash this offseason? Boston has financial flexibility and a strong desire to bounce back from a disappointing 2020. As such, we’ll examine whether several notable free agents make sense (or don’t make sense) as the club looks to retool for 2021 and beyond.

The most fascinating player available in free agency this offseason is an international infielder who’s never played in Major League Baseball.

Ha-Seong Kim is making the jump from the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) after seven seasons, including a 2020 campaign with the Kiwoom Heroes that arguably was his best.

MLB insider Jon Morosi reported Monday, citing sources, that Kim has been formally posted by Kiwoom and that teams now have the ability to sign the 25-year-old until Jan. 1.

Kim can negotiate with any MLB team, allowing him to choose his destination. Whichever team signs Kim will pay Kiwoom a “release fee,” a separate expense in addition to the contract given to the player.

Obviously, there’s a ton of inherent uncertainty that comes with international signings, especially those from the KBO, where the pitching pales in comparison to what’s considered league average in MLB. But Kim’s upside is tantalizing, to say the least.

Should the Red Sox join the sweepstakes? Let’s evaluate.

Info
Position: SS/3B
Age: 25 (Oct. 17, 1995)
Height: 5-foot-9
Weight: 167 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

2020 stats*
138 games (622 plate appearances)
30 HRs, 109 RBIs, 23 SBs
.306/.397/.523

*with Kiwoom Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO)

Career stats*
891 games (3,664 plate appearances)
133 HRs, 575 RBIs, 134 SBs
.294/.373/.493

*all in the KBO

Why Kim makes sense for Red Sox:
Kim played primarily shortstop and third base in Korea. The Red Sox currently are set at those positions — with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, respectively — but Kim theoretically could factor into Boston’s second base plans, which are far less certain, while providing an extra layer of depth and versatility for 2021 and beyond.

Obviously, it’s difficult to read too much into Kim’s gaudy KBO numbers, because, again, it’s a totally different level of pitching. But Kim, a toolsy player, has drawn positive reviews for boasting decent pop, plus speed and solid defense. If he reaches his ceiling, he’ll impact the game in a number of ways.

Kim’s age really boosts his value, as he’s basically a prospect with seven years of professional experience. The 25-year-old could help a team win now and as a long-term building block. As such, one could argue every MLB organization — contenders and rebuilding clubs — should have some level of interest in the Korean product.

Ultimately, it’s incumbent upon scouting departments to determine to what extent Kim’s alluring skillset will translate to MLB. Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser wrote in May that Kim would be a top-100 prospect as soon as he arrived, and it’s fair to assume the talented infielder only padded his case with a sensational showing in 2020.

Why Kim doesn’t make sense for Red Sox:
There’s a wide range of outcomes for Kim’s transition to MLB. He could blossom into an everyday contributor, at which point his deal would look like a savvy investment. Or he could flop, leaving his new team stuck with an overpriced utility player. Does Chaim Bloom want to roll the dice?

MLB Trade Rumors projected a five-year, $40 million contract for Kim — which also would require a $7.625 million posting fee, bringing the total expenditure to $47.625 million.

This isn’t an outrageous sum, especially for a high-upside player presumably in his prime, but it’s still a decent chunk of change for an unknown quantity. And it’d be a tough cost to justify if Kim fails to adjust to his new surroundings, even more so as the league continues to grapple with the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Red Sox might be better off relying on internal candidates to fill their current hole at second base, knowing top prospect Jeter Downs is on the cusp of reaching the majors and that pitching is of far greater concern as Boston attempts to return to contention.

Verdict: Fit.

Prediction: Kim signs a five-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.

Thumbnail photo via YouTube screengrab
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