Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim will not accept a minor league assignment from the club, according to an announcement from his Korea-based agency (via Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News Agency and Daniel Kim of KBO Sports; Twitter links). His contract includes language preventing the organization from sending him down without his approval.
“Kim would like to see his contract honored and executed faithfully,” the agency said in a statement (link via Yoo). “He also hopes to receive fair opportunities to continue his career as a major leaguer with Baltimore.”
There had been some suggestion that Kim would consider opening the year at Triple-A, where he might gain some seasoning and ready himself for the majors. That now appears to be a long shot, however.
Kim, whom the Orioles signed to a two-year, $7MM deal during the offseason, is in this position because of a highly disappointing spring. The 28-year-old hit an ugly .182/.229/.182 with one walk and no extra base hits in 44 plate appearances. Kim’s offense isn’t the only concern, though, as a scout told Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com that his defense also leaves much to be desired (Twitter link).
The offensive numbers Kim amassed this spring are a far cry from the stats he compiled in the pitching-challenged Korea Baseball Organization, where he slashed .318/.406/.488 in nine seasons. One reason for Kim’s success in Korea was his outstanding plate discipline, and he was supposed to use that to serve as a high-OBP presence in Baltimore’s lineup. Kim’s inability to get on base this spring opened the door for Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard, who parlayed a .390/.463/.576 line into a big league roster spot. Despite their vastly different springs, general manager Dan Duqette called the move to carry Rickard over Kim “a razor thin roster call” (Twitter link via Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com).
Given their decision, the Duquette-led O’s are now in a tough spot. If Kim won’t relent and accept a place in the minors, the choices are limited. The team seems to have decided Kim’s not major league-ready, with Duquette saying that “the player needs more at-bats to prepare for the season.” Baltimore could next follow the route that got them out from under the failed contract of fellow Korean Suk-min Yoon by finding a KBO club to pick up some or all of the Kim’s contract. But it’s not clear whether there is sufficient interest in this case, and Kim expressed a desire earlier this week to continue his career in North America, as Roch Kubatko of MASN.com reported. Otherwise, the O’s would presumably have no choice but to eat the entire contract. Duquette, of course, hopes it doesn’t come to that and expressed optimism about Kim’s future with the Orioles.
“We all look forward to his contributions to the club after Kim has more time to adjust to his new surroundings,” Duquette said.