Pirates Acquire: Ha-Seong Kim
Padres Acquire: Hunter Barco, Dariel Lopez
The San Diego Padres may look to cut payroll, but they're not just going to give away players for free. That, however, still doesn't mean they won't be looking to trade some short-term veterans. One of those players is Ha-Seong Kim, who is controlled through 2024 but would be a near-perfect fit for the Pirates and their infield.
Kim is coming off his best season yet. In 626 plate appearances, Kim batted .260/.351/.398 with 17 home runs. The infielder walked in 12% of his plate appearances while striking out less than 20% of the time (19.8% strikeout rate). He was also a base stealing threat, taking 38 bags. Kim finished the season with a .330 wOBA and 112 wRC+. He has gotten better at the plate each and every season since getting to the United States, going from a 71 wRC+ in his 2021 rookie year to 106 last year and 112 this past season.
However, one thing that has maintained consistently since Kim's arrival is his defense. He is one of the best infield defenders in baseball. Kim primarily played second base last year and had +10 defensive runs saved and +7 outs above average. However, he was the Padres' primary shortstop in '22 and had +10 DRS and +7 OAA. He has also played nearly 600 innings at third base in his career and has +9 DRS/+2 OAA.
If the Pirates acquired Kim, they would have arguably the best defensive infield in baseball. Ke'Bryan Hayes at third base, Jared Triolo at first base, and Kim at second would give them three potential Gold Glove winners. Even if Oneil Cruz is the weakest link, so long as he can be at least an average defender, it will be hard for ground balls to get past this group.
Going back, I have the headliner being left-handed pitcher Hunter Barco. Barco returned from Tommy John surgery this past year and pitched well in his brief sample size. In 18.1 innings at the FCL and A-Ball, Barco allowed seven earned runs but didn't allow a single home run, struck out 28 batters, and only allowed six free passes.
The Pirates' second-round pick in 2022, Barco is a soft tosser, but the pitch plays above its velocity because of Barco's low arm slot. His best pitch is a slider that comes in with good sweeping action and plus potential. Then there's his changeup, which is another pitch with above-average potential. Barco can throw everything for strikes and hits his spots well.
I also have the Pirates, including Dariel Lopez, in this deal. The infielder missed all of 2023 due to a dislocated knee. But when Lopez last played, he produced solid numbers, including a .286/.329/.476 triple-slash, a .359 wOBA, and 116 wRC+. Lopez had a below-average 25.5% K-rate and a 5% walk rate, but he also hit for above-average power. Lopez also had a decent summer in 2022, owning a 131 wRC+ after the start of June.
Lopez has played all four infield positions. Although he has a solid arm, he is a below-average runner who likely won't be good enough to play up the middle. That leaves first base or third base as his most likely final destination. Still, Lopez has 20-homer potential, regardless of what position he is playing.
The Padres need pitching long-term. Right now, their pitching depth is pretty barren. Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish are the only pitchers in the majors who are controlled through 2025. The Padres do have some decent pitching prospects, but their best is at least another season away if not two more seasons. They also could use the infield prospect depth that Lopez could provide.
Kim's value is brought down by the fact he only has one year of control remaining, but he's not going to be cheap. Barco is a decent pitching prospect and a former second-round pick out of a good college. He also looked great coming back from Tommy John surgery and didn't look like he skipped a beat after a strong final season at the University of Florida.