We all know the financial realities of the Cubs this offseason, and how difficult that’ll make adding impact talent over the winter. Yes, some money did come off the books in the form of Jon Lester, Tyler Chatwood, Jose Quintana, etc., but some internal guys have raises due, and there’s also the question of what happens in arbitration. Throw in the fact that payroll is likely to come way down from its $210 million mark last year, and it’ll be tight.
But that doesn’t mean Cubs can’t or won’t sign anybody – especially when that anybody could be a near-perfect fit.
So when I first saw that the gold-glove winning, contact-making, base-stealing, 25-year-old shortstop Ha-Seong Kim was going to be posted from the KBO this offseason, I got very excited. Whether the Cubs hope to sign him to play shortstop immediately, with other plans for Javy Báez as soon as next season, or plan to play both of them up the middle for years to come, there’s an obvious place on the Cubs roster for Kim, especially given his bat.
And now, we have our first report that actually mentions the Cubs, specifically, as a team that could pursue Ha-Seong Kim when he’s posted next month.
At MLB.com, Jon Morosi starts taking inventory on the possible suitors, and the Cubs are mentioned among the group:
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.
At a high level, let’s just note that the Cubs getting the mention here among five teams is a nice sign. But obviously there are some specifics to note.
I included the full quote there because the framing is a little odd. I understand that Javy Báez is theoretically available in trade one year before free agency, and I can even set aside the unlikeliness of such a move for the sake of argument. But why would the Cubs need to trade Báez in order to pursue Kim? Morosi, himself, said that “[Kim’s] best fit could be with teams that have the flexibility to utilize him at second or third base as well,” just one sentence before the quote above. And as we know, the Cubs have an expiring contract/trade candidate at third, an expiring contract at short, and – at best – an unknown quantity in Nico Hoerner at second base. If any team can use an infielder capable of playing all three positions (let alone one at Kim’s age and with his profile), it’s the 2021-and-beyond Chicago Cubs.
So while I haven’t heard anything – like Morosi probably has – I’m going to draw my own conclusions that the Cubs’ interest in Kim, if it exists, will persist outside the parameters of Báez’s immediate future.
In the meantime, just note that after a huge offensive breakout in 2019 (.307/.389/.491; 140 wRC+), Kim kept up the pace this season as a 24-year-old shortstop in the KBO: .304/.396/.522 (140 wRC+).
He won’t likely hit for that much power in the states, and there could be an adjustment period offensively, but I would expect him to make plenty of contact, take his walks, and even steal some bases, all while being capable of sticking at shortstop for the long-term, if needed (though he can also play second and third).
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) October 15, 2020
Ultimately, the question will come down to the Cubs plans in 2021. If they find suitable trade partners for one of their infielders, the need for Kim over the long-term could go up right away. But even if they don’t, his age and profile, plus the volume of expiring contracts in Chicago post-2021, should keep him on their radar.
And that’s why he’s such an obvious fit for the Cubs. Whether they’re going for it or not in 2021 really has nothing to do with signing a 25-year-old shortstop/infielder/quality bat for the long-term. So to that end, I’m glad to see them included among the early interested parties. And remember, because of the posting system, we’ll have an answer sometime between November 10-December 14th.