clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Okay, yeah, let’s think about a Ha-Seong Kim trade

Jung Hoo Lee’s best baseball friend? Available for trade (potentially)?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

New Era - Photocall Photo by Han Myung-Gu/WireImage

You want the San Francisco Giants to get Ha-Seong Kim. I want the San Francisco Giants to get Ha-Seong Kim. Jung Hoo Lee of the San Francisco Giants wants the San Francisco Giants to get Ha-Seong Kim, so we’re all in agreement.

He’s a great defender up the middle, he’s got a good relationship with the coaching staff the Giants ported over from San Diego, he’s best baseball friends with new signee Jung Hoo Lee (sidenote: have you watched the video of him exploring Oracle Park?), last season he blossomed into an above league average hitter, and he just might be available in trade.

This offseason.

Courtesy of Padres beat writer Dennis Lin for The Athletic (subscription required),

Kim is the one who has drawn the most interest this offseason, and it’s been widespread interest. [...] Internally, at least, San Diego has been discussing the idea for weeks.

This is interesting news! It’s not mere idle speculation. I had presumed the Padres were mostly done with their salary dumping moves and the utility of keeping Kim worked for both the team’s finances and their baseball operations. But, I suppose, if you’re on the razor’s edge between a year in black or a year in red and you have the chance to move one more piece to solidify the long-term future of the baseball side (which shores up issues on the financial side) then, yeah, moving your just-turned 28 year old middle infielder who just won the Gold Glove makes a lot of sense.

And, for the Giants, it’s perhaps imperative that this becomes their focus. If we assume that they are financially constrained beyond what we think (or think they should be), then they really have to maximize their remaining moves before the season starts.

We know from the recent TK Show podcast episode with Farhan Zaidi that he has a relationship with the Padres’ A.J. Preller and that there was at least a broad conversation about Juan Soto. We should assume a similar and perhaps deeper conversation has happened with Ha-Seong Kim. Of course, given that Kim is set to make just $8 million this season, a lot more teams are likely in on him, blunting the Giants’ ability to come in with the best deal. In fact, because they’re in the same division, the Giants’ overpay might have to be so severe that it’s simply not worth it. The Padres would have other options.

But before I dig into the downside of a trade, let’s look at the upsides real quick.

  • You’ve got the preexisting relationships angle, which isn’t minor. Lee’s adjustment period being shortened because he has a friend who can help him through it is immeasurable from a computer standpoint but makes sense on a human level.
  • Although his batted ball data is bad (26.7% Hard Hit rate was in the bottom 3% of the league in 2023), he can take a walk (12%) and limit his strikeouts a bit (19.8%). His 84.3% Contact rate was 17th-best in MLB, sandwiched between Mookie Betts (84.9%) and Ronald Acuna Jr (83.1%). He puts the ball in play. And then he adds to that some 79th percentile sprint speed and you’ve got a more classic type of middle infielder, who has speed and makes consistent contact. His MLB career contact profile is something else, too: 19.6% Soft, 52.9% Medium, 27.5% Hard, and he pulls the ball about 45% of the time. That’s a good player for Oracle.
  • The main thing, though is that glove. It’s good enough to make one giddy (okay, maybe just me). Not only did he win the 2023 NL Gold Glove at second base, his +9.0 SDI (SABR Defensive Index Rating) was 9th-best in the National League (Patrick Bailey was 6th at 10.1). He had a +7 Outs Above Average, according to Statcast which is not better than Thairo Estrada’s +19 (who was +7.9 by SDI), but just step back to last season when he was San Diego’s primary shorstop: he was +8 there, the 7th-best defensive shortstop in the NL, just ahead of Brandon Crawford (+7), and according to SDI, he was the 4th-best defensive shortstop (+7.6), behind Miguel Rojas, Nico Hoerner, and Dansby Swanson.

Dansby Swanson is how we pivot into the downside risk. It’s going to take quite a lot to acquire him and it’s going to take a lot to keep him. He has a year left on his current deal ($8 million), but an extension looks like — as Dennis Lin suggests — something with a floor of Trevor Story’s recent big deal (6/$140MM) and Dansby Swanson’s (7/$177MM). Basic inflation boosts those deals to 6/$154MM and 7/$182 million, basically making Kim a $26 million AAV guy. Lin contends that he’s not as accomplished as either nor does he have their hit tools, but Swanson was a 95 OPS+ guy who would be in his age-29 season in year one of the deal and story was a 112 OPS+ guy who was 29 in year one of that deal. In all respects, Kim is between those two players.

For the moment, let’s not factor in that the Giants usually have to pay 20-25% more than every other team (because nobody really wants to play for the Giants unless the money is much, much, much more than they’d get anywhere else) and just focus on the total cost.

I don’t know if the Giants would want to make Ha-Seong Kim their highest paid player over the next few years, even if I don’t think a high AAV guy blocks them from adding similar players in the future — not just because the team has a pretty healthy payroll outlook in the years to come but also because (and mainly because) they aren’t good at attracting high AAV guys anyway. No, it’s because they have Thairo Estrada and Marco Luciano already and those guys will make less in the near-term.

It’d cost Luciano to get Kim, not only because it’d be an in-division trade, but because it would provide the most bang for the buck on both sides. I’m sure there’s a version where the Giants send over Estrada and in exchange they absorb Jake Cronenworth’s egregious and never-ending deal (2024 kicks off the 7-year, $80 million extension he signed last offseason), but I can’t imagine it won’t cost Luciano in the acquisition. Again, just because this would be an in-division trade of a player the Padres don’t have to trade at this point. They might’ve shored up their pitching enough in the Soto deal and so the Giants’ tempting pitching prospects might not be as tempting as Luciano’s upside.

But this is a situation worth monitoring. The Jung Hoo Lee + Bob Melvin connection makes this such an obvious move and the unpredictability of Baseball practically begs for an active and engaged front office to act now rather than hope & pray that everything breaks as you project a year from now.