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Blue Jays: How about another Korean superstar in Kim Ha-Seong?

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 06: Infielder Kim Ha-Seong #7 of Kiwoom Heroes bats in the bottom of the second inning during the KBO League game between LG Twins and Kiwoom Heroes at the Gocheok Sky Dome on June 06, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 06: Infielder Kim Ha-Seong #7 of Kiwoom Heroes bats in the bottom of the second inning during the KBO League game between LG Twins and Kiwoom Heroes at the Gocheok Sky Dome on June 06, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images) /
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Could soon-to-be posted Korean infielder Kim Ha-Seong be a fit for the Toronto Blue Jays?

Getting to know Kim

Kim Ha-Seong (김하성) is a South Korean infielder playing in the KBO for the Kiwoom Heroes. Just 25 years old, Kim is looking to become the next Korean superstar to play in the MLB.

In his seven seasons in the KBO, Kim has been nothing short of spectacular. The young infielder’s career batting line stands at .294/.373/.493 (.866 OPS) and he had his best season in 2020, hitting 30 home runs on route to a .920 OPS.

Despite Kim’s outstanding production in Korea, there are concerns about how his skill set would translate to the MLB level. According to Keith Law, the Senior Baseball Writer at The Athletic, Kim “has good hand-eye coordination and some power, but he gets long and his front side goes very soft in his swing, so hitting MLB velocity consistently could be a real problem.”

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This concern isn’t new for Korean hitters looking to make the jump to the MLB. Kang Jung-Ho, Park Byung-Ho, and Kim Hyun-Soo all faced similar doubts when they began their MLB careers. Consider how the former two players produced in the MLB:

Kang Jung-Ho:

KBO (2006-2014): .887 OPS, 16.9 K%

MLB (2015-2019): .797 OPS, 23.2 K%

Park Byung-Ho

KBO (2005-2015): .951 OPS, 24.5 K%

MLB (2016): .684 OPS, 32.8 K%

Though both Kang and Park experienced a dip in production as they transitioned to the MLB, Kang still managed to hit at an above-average rate (even coming in third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2015). Because Kim Ha-Seong’s hitting style is more similar to Kang than Park, many scouts are optimistic that Kim, too, can become a productive player in the MLB.

Eno Sarris, a baseball analytics writer at The Athletic, summarizes Kim’s potential value perfectly:

"“Twenty-five years old, with better-than-league-average offense at shortstop? Only Fernando Tatis Jr. and Willy Adames did that last season — you can add Gleyber Torres if you soften the plate appearance restriction. That sort of upside is worth the risk, probably, especially if the team that picks him up can pay less than ten million a year for his services. Even after they include the posting price, that would be a great bargain. Of course, the risk that he’s the utility player is why the price is that low.”"

So, is Kim a fit for the Blue Jays?

The answer is yes, and no. Any MLB team should jump at the opportunity of adding a young, talented shortstop at less than $10 million per year – MLB trade rumours projects a five-year, $40 million contract for Kim, plus a $7.625 million posting fee.

Moreover, the Blue Jays have a need for a utility infielder with the departure of Jonathan Villar, a potential non-tender candidate in Travis Shaw, and the offensive struggles of Santiago Espinal. The addition of Kim – a shortstop with extensive experience at third base – could be the missing piece to the incomplete infield puzzle.

That being said, an argument can be made that the money could be better spent elsewhere. The Blue Jays still need another impact starter and an elite bat if they are serious about competing in 2021. If the Blue Jays address those two greater needs, there may not be enough money to bid for Kim’s services.

Verdict

Kim Ha-Seong would be a welcome addition to any MLB team and especially the Blue Jays who need a utility infielder. He’s a young player who fits the timeline of the rest of the Blue Jays core and has the potential to become one of the premier infielders in the MLB. However, there are greater roster needs that need to be addressed this offseason, and the Blue Jays may not have enough money in the end to add Kim.

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Unlike Hyun-Jin Ryu last season, Kim Ha-Seong isn’t proven enough to be the major free-agent signing of the Blue Jays offseason. However, if his addition is in complement to another elite starter and/or bat, then signing Kim Ha-Seong may be the perfect way to cap a perfect offseason for the Blue Jays.

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