9:41am: Sherman now tweets that the Padres are viewed as the favorites for Kim. A deal has not yet been completed, but the two sides have discussed a $7-8MM annual value over a term fewer than six years. If a deal is completed, Kim would step in at second base, with Cronenworth likely moving into the outfield.
9:18am: Kim is on a flight to the United States this morning, per Jee-ho Yoo of South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. While Daniel Kim of DKTV and ESPN tweets that Kim is headed to the U.S. to take a physical, that doesn’t mean he’s selected a team just yet. Kim needs to be present to complete a physical prior to his posting window closing, so it makes sense that he’s headed to North America at this time.
Meanwhile, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Blue Jays and Padres are considered to be front-runners for Kim, with the Red Sox still looming as a possible but less-likely destination. The Mets and Reds have been “intrigued” by Kim, Sherman adds, but aren’t viewed as favorites to sign him.
8:55am: It’s been less than 12 hours since the Padres agreed to their blockbuster acquisition of Blake Snell in a trade with the Rays, but it seems that’s not the only major roster move general manager A.J. Preller hopes to complete before the New Year. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that San Diego is “taking a serious run” at free-agent infielder Ha-Seong Kim, who was posted for Major League clubs by the Korea Baseball Organization’s Kiwoom Heroes.
Unlike most stars who are posted for MLB teams to bid on, Kim is squarely in the midst of his prime years. The 25-year-old has been a steady contributor for the Heroes throughout his career but has seen his offensive output explode over the past two seasons, even as the KBO has altered the composition of its ball in an effort to cut back on the league’s extremely hitter-friendly tendencies. Since 2019, Kim has batted .307/.393/.500 with 49 home runs, 62 doubles, three triples and a 56-for-62 showing in stolen base attempts.
The Padres, of course, don’t have a pressing need for an infielder thanks to the presence of Manny Machado at third base, Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop and emergent Jake Cronenworth at second base. Kim, however, has experience at both shortstop and third base, and he’s viewed as a perfectly viable option at second base as well. He could give the Padres — or another club — a versatile super-utility piece who allows them rest their regular infielders a day per week or step into a larger role in the case of an injury. It’s also worth noting that Cronenworth, excellent 2020 debut notwithstanding, still has just 194 Major League plate appearances under his belt.
There’s no clear front-runner for Kim at this point, although his market is nearing its conclusion. His 30-day posting period began on Dec. 2 and must be concluded by Jan. 1 at 5pm ET. The Blue Jays have made an offer of at least five years, and reports out of South Korea have indicated that he has multiple five-year offers in hand. It’s not clear whether the Padres have made a five-year proposal, but chatter surrounding Kim figures to pick up steam over the next few days as bidding for his services draws to a close.