The Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization will post star shortstop Ha-Seong Kim for Major League clubs this winter, MLBTR has learned. He’d previously voiced a desire to be posted, and the team plans to honor those wishes this winter. All 30 Major League clubs will have the opportunity to bid on the infielder, who’ll turn just 25 years old next week.
Kim’s youth sets him apart from most other players who have made the jump from the KBO (or Japan’s NPB) to the Major Leagues. Current rules in the KBO stipulate that a player cannot be posted until he has accrued seven years of service time. Unrestricted free agency is granted after nine years. Kim’s first full season in the KBO came at just 18 years of age, however, which has him on pace to become available to MLB clubs a few years sooner than most of his peers. He’ll still meet the minimum age (25) and experience (at least six years) requirements set by Major League Baseball in order to be considered a professional rather than an amateur, meaning he can sign a Major League deal of any length and any amount.
While Kim didn’t hit much in that aforementioned rookie season — not surprising given his age — he’s been an average or better bat each year since, by measure of wRC+. However, it’s been the past two years in which Kim has taken his game to a new level. Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser wrote back in early May that Kim would be a Top 100 prospect if he signed at that point, and that was before Kim built on his 2019 breakout with a .304/.396/.522 slash in his first 551 plate appearances in 2020.
Dating back to Opening Day 2019, Kim is a .306/.392/.505 hitter — good for a 141 wRC+. In 2020, Kim has slugged a career-high 27 homers, walked more often than he’s struck out (67 to 58) and gone a perfect 21-for-21 in stolen bases. Over the past two seasons, he’s swiped 64 bags in 68 tries. Kim has also won multiple Gold Glove Awards for his work at shortstop in Korea and has some experience at third base. Given his age and 2019-20 breakout, he should draw interest from a wide range of Major League teams.
For those who need a refresher or who are unfamiliar with the posting process, the latest set of rules agreed upon between MLB and the KBO stipulate that all 30 clubs will be able to negotiate with Kim. The posting fee paid to the Heroes will be tied directly to the size of the contract signed by Kim. It is a separate sum that is paid out to the Heroes as opposed to an amount that is subtracted from Kim’s eventual contract. A signing team would pay 20 percent of the contract’s first $25MM to the Heroes, plus 17.5 percent of the next $25MM and an additional 15 percent on any dollars guaranteed beyond $50MM.
With regard to contractual options and incentives, those clauses are also subject to subsequent fees. A Major League team would only be immediately responsible for posting/release fees on the guaranteed portion of the contract. But if Kim’s new team in the Majors exercised a club option for the 2025 or 2026 season, for instance, that team would owe a supplemental fee to the Heroes once that option is picked up.
Kim’s forthcoming addition to the 2020-21 class of free agent shortstops adds some youth to a group that is headlined by Didi Gregorius, Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons and Jonathan Villar. Of that bunch, only Gregorius enjoyed a quality year by his standards, while each of the other three will be hoping for rebounds (to varying extents).