This could be the next KBO-to-MLB star

October 14th, 2020

Major League Baseball teams likely will have the chance to sign Korean shortstop Ha-seong Kim.

They just need to wait a little longer for the opportunity.

The Kiwoom Heroes are expected to make Kim available to MLB clubs this offseason via the posting system, according to Jee-ho Yoo of Yonhap News, although the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the timeline for when that will occur.

Because the Korea Series won’t conclude until the end of November, the KBO has shifted its posting period back to Nov. 10 through Dec. 14, Yoo reported.

During a year of profound disruption throughout the world, Kim’s aspirations of moving to MLB appear unchanged. And the Heroes told their star shortstop last year that they would respect his wishes by posting him for MLB teams after the 2020 season.

Kim’s audition for MLB clubs this season has left a sterling impression: His .933 OPS and 29 home runs through 131 games are career highs.

Scouts who have seen Kim believe he can play shortstop in the Majors, but his best fit could be with teams that have the flexibility to utilize him at second or third base as well.

The Rangers and Giants are viewed as suitors. The Angels, currently without a general manager, have an opening at shortstop as well, with Andrelton Simmons entering free agency. The Indians could pursue Kim if they trade Francisco Lindor; the same is true for the Cubs if they move Javier Báez.

To sign Kim, MLB teams must pay a release fee to the Heroes, calculated based on the amount of his guaranteed contract. The Heroes would receive a payment equal to 20% of the first $25 million, 17.5% of the next $25 million, and 15% on all amounts above $50 million.

The previous decade included two examples of Korean-born hitters leaving KBO clubs to sign with MLB teams via the posting system. The Heroes posted both: Jung Ho Kang, signed by the Pirates before 2015, and ByungHo Park, signed by the Twins before '16.

Kim is often compared to Kang, his predecessor as the Heroes’ starting shortstop. Kang was a superior power hitter -- he posted an .867 OPS for the Pirates in 2016 -- but Kim is the stronger contact hitter, better defender and more athletic overall.

Kim shined on both sides of the ball during last year’s WBSC Premier12, at which Team Korea won silver and qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Kim and outfielder Jung-hoo Lee were Korea’s representatives on the All-World Team named after the tournament.