There’s been a lot of rumors surrounding the Cincinnati Reds this offseason, but one thing that’s not a rumor as much as a confirmed fact is that the organization is looking to add a shortstop in either free agency or via trade. After using a combination of Freddy Galvis, who is now a free agent, and Jose Garcia who seemed to be a bit over his head offensively as he jumped over both Double-A and Triple-A. While the organization still believes that Garcia will be capable of hitting in the future at the big league level, for now they think it’s probably better to get him some time in the minors at the upper levels and bring someone else in for the 2021 season if possible.
One of the bigger names in free agency on the shortstop market is Korean shortstop Ha-seong Kim. He was posted by his organization on December 1st, which means that things will come to a close at January 1st according to ESPN’s KBO Insider Daniel Kim. That’s an interesting twist given that in November, MLB Trade Rumors noted that the new rules between MLB and the KBO had removed the 30-day window.
The market for shortstops this offseason is deep. Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, and Marcus Semien are all there at the top of the free agent class. Shortstops Francisco Lindor and Trevor Story are both also rumored to be on the trade market. All of those players have proven big league abilities, unlike Ha-seong Kim, but they also are all older than the Korean shortstop, too.
The 25-year-old has played in the KBO since the 2014 season when he was 18-years-old. That first year he only played sparringly, getting just 59 plate appearances, but beginning in 2015 he’s played a full season every year and posted an OPS over .830 every season since. Last year the then 24-year-old hit .306/.397/.523 with more walks than strikeouts, 30 home runs, 24 doubles, and 23 stolen bases in 138 games played for the Kiwoom Heroes.
MLB Trade Rumors projected a 5-year deal and $40M for Ha-seong Kim. ESPN’s Daniel Kim reported on Christmas eve that there are “several offers in the 5+ year range” for the shortstop. If Cincinnati is going to get into that range, it’s certainly going to alter some of the perceived current plans. Kim has some experience at second base, third base, and shortstop in his career. All of those spots are either locked down long term, or have one of the organization’s top prospects at it (and sometimes both).
Of course, having too many good options is never a problem. Players can be traded for help in areas that there isn’t multiple other options. A signing of a shortstop would certainly change things for the organization for a lot of players, at least potentially. Prospects Jonathan India, who has played both second and third base, and Jose Garcia could be left on the outside looking in. For India, he may already be there with both Eugenio Suárez and Mike Moustakas entrenched at second and third base. But if Garcia is also pushed off of shortstop, that potentially puts him in that same second/third base depth and could push India further down the depth chart.
As we’ve previously talked about, ZiPS projections are quite strong for Ha-seong Kim. From 2021-2025 he’s projected to be a 3.5-3.9 WAR player that hits .270’ish with 24 homers and a solid number of stolen bases. There’s obviously risk involved in a longer term deal here, even if ZiPS translations and projections are favorable, because you don’t really have the kind of data on Kim that you have on proven big leaguers, and compared to other “prospects”, the cost is quite a bit higher from a monetary standpoint. Because of that price, there is some high risk, but also some high reward with this deal.
Assuming MLB Trade Rumors $40M price tag is right, and if Kim were to perform up to the ZiPS projections, he’d be an absolute bargain. But if he were to struggle to perform, a team would be on the hook for a solid amount of money, too.