Number One - Ha-Seong Kim
The San Diego Padres are looking to cut some payroll this winter, and one player whose name has come up in trade talks is infielder Ha-Seong Kim. Kim has been one of baseball’s best infield defenders for the last three seasons and has racked up at least a dozen defensive runs saved in each of his Major League seasons. But his bat has gotten better each and every season of his time in the US.
In 626 plate appearances, Kim slashed .260/.351/.399 with a .330 wOBA, and 112 wRC+. Kim posted career bests in each of the three triple-slash numbers, as well as in wOBA, and wRC+. The former KBO star also walked at a 12% rate. At one point, Kim looked like he might get some down ballot MVP votes, as he entered August with an OPS over .800. But after a horrific September where he had a sub-.500 OPS in the final month of the season, his numbers took a slight downtick.
Kim’s defense is his calling card, and there’s a reason he is a Gold Glove finalist at second base. He racked up +10 defensive runs saved and +7 outs above average, and he was able to do that in less than 900 innings at second base. But if Kim were to play either shortstop or third base regularly, he’d be a Gold Glove finalist at those positions too. He has +9 DRS and +2 OAA at the hot corner in just 590.1 innings, and at shortstop, he has +22 DRS, and +7 OAA throughout his career. This is also the second year in a row Kim has managed to post a double-digit DRS count at one position. In 2022, he was at shortstop, but this year he played second base.
Adding Kim to the Pirates infield may just give them the best defensive infield in baseball. Kim would slide Triolo over to first base, and with him and Ke’Bryan Hayes at the corners, nothing is getting down the lines. Of course, Oneil Cruz is the weakest link, but with Kim and Hayes flanking him, some of his defensive woes may be mitigated, at least slightly.
Kim is a great player who has averaged about 4.0 fWAR the last two seasons, is an above league average hitter, and one of the best middle infield defenders in the sport. Kim is also affordable, as he’s owed just $8 million next year. The only real negative is that he’s only controlled for a single season. But one year of a four-WAR player is extremely valuable, and more valuable than two years from many other players.