Kim Ha-Sung, Choo Shin-Soo, and Ryu Hyun-Jin could sign beyond SD safeties, numbers say so

In January 2021, San Diego and RHP Ha-Sung Kim, 27, agreed to terms on a 4+1 year contract. He will average $7 million per year for four years, totaling $28 million, with the remaining +1 year to be mutually agreed upon.

At the time of signing, the +1 year seemed to be a safety valve for both Kim and San Diego. For Ha-Sung Kim, it seemed like he would need time to work his way into the starting lineup on an already strong San Diego team. In fact, in 2021, his first year in the Major League Baseball (MLB), Kim only played 117 games and 298 at-bats. As you can see from his plate appearances to games played ratio, he started fewer games. He was a backup infielder who played every position in the infield.메이저놀이터

For San Diego, the early part of his contract was a time to invest in him. They tested the potential of a mid-20s infielder who had just broken into the top league by playing him in multiple positions. The first year’s investment yielded a passable defense, but a lack of power. In 2021, Kim hit just .202 with eight home runs, six doubles, an OPS of 0.622 and a wRC+ of 70.

But in his second year, he hit like a man possessed. In 2022, he hit .251 with 11 home runs, 12 doubles, an OPS of 0.708 and a wRC+ of 105, making the leap to starting shortstop. When San Diego acquired shortstop Zander Bogaerts in free agency in December 2022, Kim moved to second base.

And in his third year, he has evolved once more. Through Aug. 26 against Pittsburgh, he’s batting .272 with 14 homers, 19 doubles, an OPS of .810 and a wRC+ of 126. Bogaerts, who signed a 10-year, $280 million contract with San Diego, is batting .264 with 11 homers, 11 doubles, an OPS of 0.746 and a wRC+ of 110. Kim’s growth is swallowing up Bogaerts, who signed a massive contract worth about $360 million.

We’ve gotten better in all areas. The frequent defensive shifts he experienced in year one have worked in his favor. He’s become an exceptional utility player who can be trusted to play anywhere in the infield. This season, he played shortstop when Bogaerts needed a break and moved to third base when third baseman Manny Machado went down with an injury.

At the plate, the process is as good as the result. According to MLB tracking data BaseballSabermetrics, his percentage of barrel hits has risen to 6.1% this year, up from 4.5% in 2021 and 4.2% in 2022. The percentage of sweet-spot hits to the center of the bat has also been steadily increasing: 31.3% in 2021, 34.0% in 2022, and 37.1% in 2023. As accuracy has increased, so has the quality of batted balls.

Infielders who hit well, run well, and play good defense are treated like royalty in MLB, which means that the mutually agreed-upon 2025 option for Ha-Sung Kim is now moot. If he continues his upward trajectory, free agency, not a +1 option before 2025, is the obvious choice.

At this rate, a $100 million-plus free agent contract is a pipe dream. At 29 years old in his first year of free agency, he could be in his prime for three or four years. Last winter, there were a lot of quality shortstops on the market. In addition to Bogaerts, Trey Turner signed for 11 years and $300 million and Dansby Swanson signed for seven years and $177 million. The biggest contract for a Korean big leaguer in history awaits Kim, surpassing Ryu Hyun-jin’s four-year, $80 million deal and Choo Shin-soo’s seven-year, $130 million deal.

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