The San Diego Union-Tribune, a prominent local media outlet in San Diego, claimed on April 8 (KST) that “San Diego will need to raise Kim’s salary significantly if they want to keep him on the team for long. The article pointed out that the Dodgers have a choice to make as Kim’s contract comes to an end.
Kim signed a four-year, $28 million guaranteed deal with San Diego ahead of the 2021 season. That’s about $7 million per year on average. The total investment for San Diego is a bit more than that when you factor in the posting amount and incentives paid to Kiwoom. At the time, there was some criticism that San Diego was “redundant” with its established infielders. However, it’s safe to say that Kim has already paid for himself.
According to FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (WAR) calculation, Kim was worth $3.9 million in his first year and $29.3 million last year. Of course, this calculation isn’t exact, but based on his performance this year, it’s clear that the Padres have their pick of the litter. The question is, what happens next? As much as Kim’s player value has jumped, they’ll have to spend more money to keep him.
San Diego and Kim have a mutual option for a fifth year, but the chances of Kim exercising it are zero. He will most likely hit free agency after the 2024 season and look for one last big payday. In fact, once a player is eligible for free agency, his original team loses priority, and the vast majority of free agents choose to move on rather than stay with their original team, so players who are a sure thing often sign extensions before they are eligible for free agency.
Kim will be 29 next year, and he still has three to four years left in his prime. He’s about to turn 30, but there’s no indication that his athleticism is declining, so it’s not unreasonable to expect a contract of at least four years. A short-term contract of two to three years is likely to be rejected by the team unless the average annual salary is ridiculously high.
At this level of performance, Kim is worth more than $20 million per year. If you look at the recent market for shortstops, it is possible. If it’s a five-year deal or longer, there’s a good chance it could exceed $100 million. The East Village Times, a local publication, even suggested seven years and $150 million. However, there is a problem with San Diego’s team situation.
San Diego recognizes the value of Kim, and Kim is happy in San Diego. They need each other. But the first problem is that San Diego is already spending too much money on other players. They are also on super long-term contracts. Players like Fernando Tatis Jr, Manny Machado, and Xander Bogaerts. San Diego’s team payroll this year is well over $250 million, third in the league. They’re on the threshold of a luxury tax.
Add to that the pressure to acquire Juan Soto, 25, and the pressure is on. Soto has one of the best run-scoring abilities in the league. After a slow start to the season that raised some eyebrows, Soto has since regained his batting average (.408) and OPS (.908), which is 53% better than the league average. He’s fulfilling the “what goes up, comes up” mantra.
Soto has already reportedly rejected the Nats’ 15-year, $440 million offer, and the Nats, unable to afford a bigger gamble, traded him to Washington for prospects at last year’s trade deadline. That said, Soto, who is a free agent after next season, will likely be looking for more. Given San Diego’s current payroll structure, it’s going to be tough to keep him.
Even if they don’t get Blake Snell and Josh Hader, who are both free agents after this season, Soto alone is a problem for San Diego. Kim’s contract is urgent, but Soto’s value is higher anyway. Soto is more likely to be the ‘0’ pick. If the Dodgers get Soto, it will be difficult to give Kim more than $15 million per year.
On the one hand, prospects are coming up from below. San Diego gave up CJ Abrams (Washington), the team’s top prospect, in the Soto trade. You could say they had faith in Kim. But the debut of another promising shortstop, Jackson Merrill, 20, is also slowly approaching. Merrill is the No. 9 overall prospect in the majors and the No. 2 prospect on the team. He’s top-tier. He’s also been relatively impressive in spring training this year. He’s a strong candidate for a 2024 call-up.
Merrill has a sophisticated hitting ability. He’s even been said to have the ability to triple. He’s got a lot of power, and he’s above-average on defense and on the basepaths, so he has the potential to be an “all-around player” like Kim Ha-Sung. However, the Red Sox already have Xander Bogaerts under contract for 11 years at shortstop and Manny Machado at third base. Merrill would realistically need to clear a spot at second base, which could be an ambiguous proposition if Kim Ha-Sung is available.
However, trading Merrill, like Abrams, would be too short-sighted for the future. Outside of Merrill, it’s not like they have any other top prospects in center field, so they’re likely to keep him. If they give up Soto, they’ll have room to sign Ha-Sung Kim, but if they don’t, they could pass on Kim and strategically develop Merrill. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the team could waive both Soto and Kim to overhaul the team’s payroll.먹튀검증
Of course, San Diego is unlikely to lose money on either option, as Ha-Sung Kim will likely hit free agency and get a big payday. There’s always a glut of center fielders in the league, and the 2024-2025 free agent class is also lacking in quality shortstops. Kim’s big payday could be the difference between staying with San Diego and not.