The Padres are planning to take another run at signing lefty Kwang-Hyun Kim now that he’s been posted by the SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. San Diego won the bidding on Kim when he was posted under the previous blind-bid system back in 2014, and the organization again has its sights set on the now-31-year-old southpaw.
Perhaps of even greater note is that Acee suggests the organization doesn’t intend to pursue either Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg — despite previous reports linking them to the latter — due to that duo’s expected price tag. MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell wrote yesterday that the Padres are “more optimistic” about their in-house options than the rest of the industry, adding that a pursuit of one of the top names is unlikely and that there’s been “no recent movement” to add to the rotation. Acee notes that Kim now stands out as the likeliest rotation addition for the Friars.
At present, sophomore Chris Paddack projects to front a Padres rotation that’ll also include Dinelson Lamet, Garrett Richards (in his first full year back from 2018 Tommy John surgery), recent trade acquisition Zach Davies and Joey Lucchesi. Others such as Adrian Morejon, Cal Quantrill, Michel Baez, Nick Margevicius and Ronald Bolanos represent 40-man alternatives, and uber-prospect MacKenzie Gore is likely ticketed for Double-A to open the 2020 season, thus placing him within arm’s reach of a promotion.
That pitching depth is indeed enviable, but the Padres’ payroll likely plays as much a role — if not a greater role — in their apparent aversion to inking additional free-agent pitchers. San Diego’s acquisitions of Davies and Jurickson Profar put them in line for a 2020 payroll in the $144MM range, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez. That number crushes their previous high-water mark, and even tacking on a mid-range starting pitcher would push the Padres beyond the $150MM mark both in terms of actual 2020 payroll and luxury-tax considerations.
The Padres have reportedly been seeking trade partners for Wil Myers for more than a year but, to this point, have unsurprisingly struggled to find a taker. Myers, who’ll turn 29 next week, is still owed a massive $61MM over the next three seasons under the now-regrettable extension he signed back in Jan. 2017, and the glut of first base/corner outfield options available elsewhere in trade or in free agency make him all the more cumbersome an asset to market in trade talks. The remaining six years and $99MM on Eric Hosmer’s eight-year contract isn’t doing the payroll any favors, either.
None of that is to say that Kim, who could be an affordable rotation option, is unworthy of an earnest pursuit. Kim has established himself as one of the best and most consistent pitchers in the hitter-friendly Korea Baseball Organization over the past decade and is fresh off a pair of sub-3.00 ERA seasons in his return from 2017 Tommy John surgery. Notably, the KBO has provided teams with extensive documentation on Kim’s health at MLB’s request, Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency reported recently.
Over his past 326 1/3 innings since surgery, Kim has pitched to a 2.70 ERA with 310 strikeouts against just 68 walks — demonstrating the best control of his career. He’s walked just 5.1 percent of the hitters he’s faced in that span against a 23.1 percent strikeout rate. Certainly, there’s cause for intrigue and reason to believe that he could be a viable mid-rotation upgrade at a lesser price than remaining second- and third-tier options on the domestic market.
Kim has been formally posted for Major League teams, who have until Jan. 5 to negotiate a contract with the former KBO MVP. Any team is free to sign him for any amount under the new posting system, but the Wyverns would be entitled to a release fee that is dependent on the size of the contract he inks. The Wyverns would receive a sum equal to 20 percent of the first $25MM in guarantees plus 17.5 percent of the next $25MM and 15 percent of any money spent beyond that level. A contract pushing beyond that $50MM mark (or even the $25MM plateau) hasn’t been expected, although the market for Kim is only just taking shape. What seems clear is that the Padres intend to be squarely in the mix as they seek to bolster their starting staff with an eye toward emerging from a lengthy rebuild.