The Rangers have interest in star Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports in his latest inbox column. The Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization posted the 25-year-old Kim for Major League teams earlier this week.
While Kim has primarily played shortstop to this point in his career, he also spent a good chunk of time at third base this year after the Heroes brought Addison Russell over midway through the season. Kim is also capable of handling second base. As Sullivan points out, Kim checks some boxes for the Rangers by virtue of the fact that he’s a prime-aged player with the potential to provide an offensive upgrade in the infield without necessarily being boxed into one position at the time of signing.
As noted in our Rangers Offseason Outlook, Kim’s versatility indeed seems like a good fit for a Texas club that has openly expressed a desire to get younger. A pair of roadblocks at the two middle infield positions exist in shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Rougned Odor, both of whom are signed for two more seasons. Andrus struggled through an injury-marred 2020 campaign, although he was a serviceable option at his position as recently as 2019 thanks to his strong glovework. Odor’s struggles have been far more persistent, however, and the question of whether the club will move on or drop him to a bench role becomes more prominent with each passing year.
Even if Texas is intent on keeping both stalwarts in place, Kim or Isiah Kiner-Falefa could be used as a multi-position utility piece. A pursuit of Kim wouldn’t necessarily be about winning immediately in 2021 so much as acquiring a long-term contributor, so if the Rangers feel he can be an everyday option at any of third base, shortstop or second base, there’s reason for the team to make a push for him and sort out playing time down the road.
The Rangers, of course, won’t be the only team in the mix for Kim; he’s also been linked to the Blue Jays already and will surely draw broader interest. Kim is an abnormally young free agent option for MLB teams, and after a strong showing early in his career, he’s broken out as a superstar-level performer in the KBO over the past two seasons.
Even as the KBO has become a slightly more pitcher-friendly setting in recent years, Kim has improved. Since Opening Day 2019, he’s slashed .307/.393/.500 with 62 doubles, three triples and 49 home home runs through 1247 plate appearances — including 30 long balls in 2020. He’s walked 145 times to just 148 strikeouts over that same two-year stretch and also gone 56-for-62 in stolen base attempts. Over the past two seasons, he’s been 41 percent better than a league-average hitter in the KBO, by measure of wRC+.
Whichever club signs Kim to a multi-year deal will need to pay a posting fee to the Heroes. That sum is dependent on the size of Kim’s contract and is on top of whatever money he’s guaranteed. The Heroes are entitled to a fee equal to 20 percent of the contract’s first $25MM in value, 17.5 percent of the next $25MM and 15 percent of anything money thereafter. Kim’s 30-day posting window began yesterday and will run through 5pm ET on Dec. 25. He’s free to sign at any point during that period and does not need to wait until the deadline to make a decision.