Ha Sung Kim officially signed with the San Diego Padres on January 1, 2021. A 4+1 year deal with a one-year option after four years. The deal was worth $28 million in guaranteed money over four years and $39 million over five years with incentives and a fifth-year option.
However, Kim did not have a minor league veto for the first two years. Instead, he could only opt out of a minor league demotion in his third and fourth seasons. Usually, when Asian players reach the major leagues, they are given minor league veto rights early on in their contracts to allow for an adjustment period.
Kim was the opposite, but he’s completed three seasons so far without a single trip to the minors. There were concerns, and he’s not without his ups and downs, but he’s overcome them. Both talent and circumstances were on his side. In this case, we’re talking about salary.
In 2021, his first year in the majors, Kim batted just .202 in 117 games, but he avoided being demoted to the minor leagues thanks to his utility ability to play shortstop and steady defense at second and third base. His lack of success at the plate in exhibition games led to some suggestions that he should start the season in the minors, but manager Jayson Tingler refuted that notion.
Even in San Diego, where the owner’s nickname is “Madman” (A.J. Preller), it’s not easy to send a $7 million-a-year player down to the minors. In 2021, Kim was still a rookie and one of the top 10 highest paid players on the team. Only four players were making more than $10 million: Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr, Eric Hosmer, and Will Myers.
Based on his experience, Kim has some advice for future major league players that could be useful in the negotiation process.굿모닝토토
At the official press conference for the Gold Glove Award, held at Hotel Rivera Versailles in Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, on the 20th, Kim talked about what he felt after being given a minor league veto in his third season.
He said, “I talked to (Lee) Jung-hoo, and I don’t think the minor league veto means much. I didn’t go down to the minors even though I didn’t make it the first year. If you’re a high-salaried player, it’s not easy to get sent down to the minors unless you’ve really hit rock bottom.”
“When I got to the major leagues, there were seniors who were in the minors, so I thought I was in trouble if I went to the minors. So I was obsessed with the minor league veto. Even now, I don’t think I would go for less money. I don’t think there’s a reason to be obsessed with the minor league veto, and I think it’s better to have an opt-out (free agency rights in the middle of the contract).”
The contract is for 4+1 years, but the way things are going, Kim will likely become a free agent after four seasons. He’s now moved up a weight class to take control. “A lot of people say that next year is important because I’m a free agent, but there hasn’t been a season that hasn’t been important to me, so I’ll do my best to prepare the same as always. If I do, it will be the first free agency opportunity of my career. I hope I don’t get injured and do well. Personally, I want next year to be a better season than this year, so I’m doing my best.”
Kim finished in the final three in the National League Gold Glove voting in two categories: utility and second base. He was up against Nico Horner (Chicago Cubs) and Bryson Stott (Philadelphia Phillies) for the second baseman award, but failed to win. However, in the utility category, which was announced later, he won the Gold Glove over Tommy Edmon (St. Louis Cardinals) and Mookie Betts (Los Angeles Dodgers).
It was the first Gold Glove honor for a Korean major leaguer in history. He is also the first major leaguer of Asian descent to win a Gold Glove if you limit it to infielders. Ichiro Suzuki won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves as an outfielder in the American League with the Seattle Mariners. Kim Ha-seong is the first infielder to win the award.
He was recognized not only for his defense, but also for his hitting. This is evidenced by his inclusion in the Silver Slugger nominations. Kim was nominated for the Silver Slugger in the utility category after hitting .260 with 17 home runs and 60 RBIs in 152 games this year. Kim said he didn’t expect to win the award, but the nomination motivated him to do better.
In the MVP voting results, which were announced on July 17, he received five first-place votes and five points. It’s a far cry from winning, but the votes alone are significant. With Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Atlanta Braves receiving 30 first-place votes and being named the unanimous MVP, Kim was one of only 18 voters. He is the third Korean major leaguer to receive MVP votes, joining Shin-Soo Choo (Cleveland Indians, 2010; Cincinnati Reds, 2013) and Ryu Hyun-jin (Dodgers, 2019).