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Ha-Seong Kim: Padres are best team in MLB

@AJCassavell
January 6, 2021

Ha-Seong Kim, by any evaluation, was one of the best, most complete infielders on the free-agent market this winter. The Padres, by any evaluation, already had one of the best, most complete infields. Evidently that wasn't a deterrent. Quite the opposite, in fact. Kim and the Padres are clearly a

Ha-Seong Kim, by any evaluation, was one of the best, most complete infielders on the free-agent market this winter.

The Padres, by any evaluation, already had one of the best, most complete infields.

Evidently that wasn't a deterrent. Quite the opposite, in fact. Kim and the Padres are clearly a suitable match.

On Tuesday night, the Padres held an introductory video conference for Kim, who signed a four-year, $28 million deal last week. Immediately, Kim cut a confident figure, proclaiming the Padres as World Series contenders and setting a goal of winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 2021.

Kim began his press conference by reading a statement in which he tipped his cap to the entire Padres starting infield -- Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Jake Cronenworth and Eric Hosmer -- calling them "great talents." Almost instantly, Kim was asked why he would choose to join an infield with returning starters at all four spots.

"The Padres are not only a contender but [could] become the World Series champion this year," Kim said in Korean through an interpreter. "I want to be part of a winning team. That's why I joined the San Diego Padres. I can play any position in the infield."

That's precisely the role the Padres want Kim to fill. The way they see it, there's plenty of room for a versatile infielder. Players get hurt. Players need rest days. Players slump.

And, sure, if all five Padres infielders are healthy at the same time, and all five require a spot in the starting lineup, it's still possible that Cronenworth or Kim might get a look in the outfield. But that'll take care of itself later.

"We'll get to Spring Training, we'll really start to dig in more when we have everybody on the field," Preller said. "We have a lot of confidence that we have players that are going to be able to move around.

"Again, it's also going from 60 games to [162] games. We've talked about that as a group a lot here. Last year was truly a sprint. This year is getting back to a marathon. ... We're going to keep our players fresh."

Although Kim played shortstop and third base primarily in Korea, he's likely to see the bulk of his action at second base with the Padres. Kim could potentially serve in a platoon with the lefty-hitting Cronenworth.

But Cronenworth brings a similar type of versatility, having played all four infield positions last season. It seems more likely that both continue to play regularly, as the Padres give their infielders -- and maybe their outfielders -- regular breathers by moving Cronenworth and Kim around the field.

"We'll look at every possible option and figure that out," Preller said. "But originally and right out of the gate, we see [Kim] as an infielder."

Kim's glove is not at the level of Cronenworth, who profiles as a borderline-elite defender at four positions. But the Padres expect above-average defense from Kim at second base. They also expect big things at the plate. Kim batted .306/.397/.523 with 30 homers in the KBO last season.

It's quite an addition to an offense that returns starters at all eight positions and boasts arguably the best infield in baseball. Kim was quick to note how eager he is to work with the current quartet of Padres infielders.

"These are great players," he said. "They have more experience. Just by training with them and playing along with them, I will learn and grow as a player."

Kim spent most of his press conference teetering between conflicting emotions -- humility for an opportunity that he called "my dream" and an endless supply of confidence that he’ll make the most of it.

Of course, there's no shortage of confidence within the Padres infield. As newly acquired lefty Blake Snell noted last week, the Padres might be the league's "swaggiest" team. Kim, whose bat flips rival those of Tatis, clearly intends to add to that.

"It's truly my honor to join the San Diego Padres, the Major Leagues' best baseball team, with tremendous firepower and excellent pitching," Kim said. "2021 will be an amazing year -- for myself and for the Padres."

Bold. These days, that's just the way the Padres like it.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.