There’s a story out there about a big shortstop who signed an 11-year, $280 million free-agent contract with a total value of $367.4 million losing his place in the lineup after just one year because of a player making a $7 million salary. Such is the majesty of Kim Ha-seong (28-San Diego Padres). The first Korean major leaguer to win a Gold Glove drove a wedge in that opinion.
“San Diego’s 2023 season didn’t go as planned with a full roster and a bloated payroll,” said U.S. media outlet ‘Beyond the Monster’ on Aug. 8 (KST). “But all is not lost for San Diego. Infielder Ha-Sung Kim became the first Korean player to win a Gold Glove in the utility category.”굿모닝토토 도메인
On June 6, Kim became the first Korean and first Asian major league infielder to win a Major League Baseball Gold Glove. He beat out former Gold Glove winners Mookie Betts (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Tommy Edmon (St. Louis Cardinals) for the utility award, which was created last year. The win, which comes three years after signing a four-year, $28 million (KRW 367 million) guaranteed contract in December 2020, avenged the disappointment of not winning the Gold Glove as the National League shortstop last year.
The official recognition of Kim’s outstanding defense is expected to have a significant impact on San Diego’s plans for the 2024 season. According to another outlet, The Athletic, the Dodgers want Xander Bogaerts, 31, to play first or second base in 2024. That would put him in the vacant shortstop spot, with top prospect Jackson Merrill taking over the super-utility role he’s played the past two years.
In fact, it’s not the first time San Diego has talked about wanting to move Bogart out of shortstop. Even after signing Bogaerts to a massive 11-year, $280 million contract last offseason, there were concerns about using him at shortstop. San Diego already had Ha Sung Kim, a three-time Gold Glove finalist and a proven shortstop whose defense pushed Fernando Tatis Jr. (24) out of the outfield.
However, Bogaerts himself was very proud of his shortstop, and San Diego gave him the starting shortstop job “for now” out of respect for his career. After all, Bogaerts was a superstar who played most of his big league games at shortstop for the Boston Red Sox in 2013, helping them win two World Series titles. Despite never winning a Gold Glove, he didn’t like the idea of losing that position, starting 1192 of his 1264 games at shortstop before coming to San Diego.
For one season, the Bogaerts-second baseman-Kim-Ha-Sung system worked, and the results were predictable. Both objectively and subjectively, Kim dominated defensively. In the latest defensive metric, OAA (Outs Above Average – a measure of how many more outs a player makes than the league average), Kim was +9 and Bogaerts was +3. Despite the cumulative disadvantage of 20 games (16 starts) and 153⅓ innings, and 146 games (1285⅔ innings) for Bogaerts, the shortstop OAA numbers were not much different: 0 for Bogaerts and +3 for Kim.
The gap was wider in the traditional defensive metric DRS (Defensive Runs Saved – a measure of how many runs a defender prevents). Across all positions, Kim was +16 and Bogaerts was -4 in DRS as compiled by Fielding Bible, and when looking at shortstop alone, Kim saved his team three more runs than Bogaerts.
There are 367.4 billion shortstops to choose from, let alone a prospect who hasn’t even made it to Triple-A yet. Clearly, Merrill is an elite shortstop prospect with a ton of major league upside. He was drafted by San Diego with the 27th overall pick in the first round of the 2021 First-Year Player Draft and has progressed smoothly through the ranks, finishing the season at Double-A. Merrill’s offensive and defensive prowess has led MLB.com to rank him as the ninth-best prospect in all of baseball and the second-best on San Diego’s team. The plan is for Merrill, who will debut in the big leagues next year, to start as a backup and eventually develop into a starting shortstop. “San Diego is considering giving Bogart a season at shortstop and then moving him to another position to favor Merrill, the team’s top prospect,” Beyond the Monster reported.
No matter how much pride Bogaerts has in his shortstop, he’ll be traded if he doesn’t accept it. “There is some speculation that San Diego will trade Bogaerts this winter in order to shed payroll,” Beyond the Monster reported.
This is due to the team’s recent cash flow issues. In September of this year, the team took out a $50 million loan to address its payroll in order to address its per cap cash flow issues. While the team’s total annual salary has ballooned to $296 million (KRW 388.4 billion), it was also affected by the bankruptcy of Valley Sports, which handled San Diego’s broadcasting rights.
With a salary diet inevitable, USA Today’s Bob Nightingale offered an alternative: “If San Diego has to make a tough decision, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it make a creative deal for Bogaerts and Tatis Jr. to avoid trading Juan Soto.”
All of these scenarios would not be possible without the faith in Kim. “With Merrill on the threshold of the majors and the talented Ha Sung Kim on the San Diego roster, the Padres could see what they could get for Bogart in trade talks,” said Beyond the Monster. Not to mention that if the Dodgers were to trade Bogart, they would have to take on some of his massive contract.”