The SSG Landers of the Korea Baseball Organization have formally requested a status check on free-agent lefty Kwang Hyun Kim, tweets South Korean reporter Daniel Kim.
Teams from the Korea Baseball Organization and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball must formally submit requests for status checks to negotiate with Major League free agents, just as MLB teams must tender status checks on a KBO or NPB free agent if they plan to pursue contract negotiations. At this point, there’s little to indicate that serious negotiations have taken place, but the fact that there’s interest is of note. Kim spent parts of 12 seasons pitching with the Landers — then named the SK Wyverns — from 2007-19 before signing a two-year, $8MM contract with the Cardinals in advance of the 2020 season.
As detailed here recently, Kim stands out as a perhaps unheralded but nevertheless intriguing post-lockout option for big league teams in need of rotation help — if he remains unsigned by that point. Kim dealt with some relatively minor injury issues this past season but has been a solid option both in the St. Louis rotation and bullpen, pitching to a 2.97 ERA with a 17.2% strikeout rate, an 8.4% walk rate and a 48.1% ground-ball rate in 145 2/3 Major League innings.
The extent to which Kim is seriously contemplating a return to South Korea at this juncture isn’t clear. He’s been dead set on continuing his MLB run since the 2021 season ended, but it’d be somewhat understandable if the ongoing lockout and lack of progress in talks at least has him mulling the possibility of returning home. He’s certainly had an odd MLB tenure, as his debut came during the shortened 2020 season (and the strict Covid-19 protocols that were in place throughout that summer) and was followed by a 2021 campaign that still began with limited fan attendance and had plenty of protocols throughout the season.
From a purely financial standpoint, it’d be most prudent to grind out the remainder of the lockout. Major League teams will offer considerably larger sums than their KBO counterparts; players on the very top end of the KBO pay scale generally earn $2MM to $2.5MM annually. Back in December, outfielder Sung-bum Na signed a six-year deal worth roughly $12.6MM total, which marked the largest deal in KBO history. Based on the fact that Kim earned $4MM annually with the Cardinals before he’d had any success in the Majors, he ought to be able to command a decidedly larger sum this time around if he’s willing to wait things out.
It’s certainly possible that Kim could settle for a one-year deal in a familiar setting with his old teammates, then aim for a return effort next winter. However, he’d be 34 years old at that point, and he’d run the risk of an injury or downturn in performance against KBO lineups — either of which could considerably weigh down his earning power.
KK proved he could be a good addition to any team who needs to plug in rotation help. The Cardinals should be preparing to offer him a contract if this craziness should ever come to an end.
Good luck KK. When you are on your game and healthy, you are fun to watch pitch. Genuinely seems like a nice guy.
Ol’ Uncle Charlie
Dude is a gamer and I don’t think the Cards saw his full potential. The Cards should absolutely take another run at him. He’s a solid 5th starter for the Cards and a more-than-capable arm in relief. His brief meltdown coincided with his health issues. And he’s a good dude.
Biggest contract in KBO history is givin to a 31 year old for 6 years. That won’t play out well.
It takes 9 years service time to become a free agent in the KBO. 31 is about as young as their free agent signings are going to get.
And players here think they have it bad…
5 DL stints in two MLB seasons… but he’s a nice guy
What was it Leo Durocher said about nice guys?
Remember seeing where due to the pandemic he hadn’t seen his family for almost a year.
He was going along pretty well his last few starts before the injury bug derailed him and landed him in the pen late in the season. Could be a solid back end guy or bullpen arm.
hope he sticks around. would love to see him as SP5 im Philly.
If I was KK, I’d take the plane ride home and take what his former team offers. Make some money and consider the states again. If he can stay healthy and potentially be a solid starter in where ever he goes, he can earn a nice pay day next year. I doubt MLB season starts by May and no later than July. He isn’t getting paid this year and might as well play some where that pays. Plus you have same ex top prospects joining NPO and other Asian leagues right now. It’s not like MLB level and more of a AAAA level leagues right now. But if some pitcher wants to boost their stock and get back to the MLB, Asian or even Korean league maybe the answer this year.
Ol’ Uncle Charlie
As a KBO player, he’ll MAX out at about $2 million. Even with a shorter season, he’ll probably make more than that in the MLB this year…and he’s running out of time, so losing a season at his age isn’t a good idea. He waited a long time to get to the MLB, I would think he’d like to give his best effort to continuing on that path since he’s proven he can play in the MLB…but who knows what he’ll do?
Congratulations on making it to the KPO. I think 2 million is going to be the base salary for guys like KK in the MLB this year. I really see a June or July start date for the season. KK can always come back to the MLB if he can remain healthy. It’s a risk for him to sign a FA deal and spend even a small portion of the season on the DL at the MLB level (with a short season again). It wouldn’t be any different from the KBO if he decided to play there. He also wouldn’t count against the limit of foreign players addition KBO has since he’s a Korean citizen. I think it’s a win win for all parties
Should have no problem getting $3m-$6m offers from at least 15 clubs. Having a pitcher capable of contributing out of the bullpen and in the rotation provides a valuable asset. Even though he’s 33. According to the career of Yusmeiro Petit, bro is just getting started!!