It’ll Hurt Real Bad, But the Padres Need to Trade Ha-Seong Kim

After having already lost superstar Juan Soto to the Yankees, the prospect of trading Ha-Seong Kim is a tough, but necessary, move.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 10: Ha-Seong Kim #7 of the San Diego Padres high fives Jake Cronenworth #9 after scoring a run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on April 10, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Padres defeated the Diamondbacks 10-5. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Everyone always talks about selling high. Visionary geniuses cosplaying as Billy Beane from Moneyball as if they’re the only ones that knew, like, Eric Thames was unlikely to keep up his 2017 pace. Everyone knew! You ain’t special sweetie! Sometimes, selling high isn’t just about the obvious regression or ascension (i.e. no, honey, you’re not going to convince someone Julio Rodriguez should be traded because of his poor start last season), you filthy mongrels. 

But in all seriousness, selling on a player at the right time to get value is hard. By golly, It’s hard for fantasy managers to execute it properly. But rather than judging trades by Fleece or No Fleece, sometimes it should just be viewed as an objectively great player that will net you a return more suited to your team’s needs. Ha-Seong Kim — forever may he reign — is the latest and greatest candidate for such a maneuver. 

Despite the 2023 season delivering perhaps the most lurid failures of GM AJ Preller’s tenure (e.g. Xander Bogaerts hating RBIs, Joe Musgrove’s toe injury, all of those damn articles, Bob Melvin giving up??), Ha-Seong Kim was one of the lone bright spots. He not only continued his gold-glove caliber defense, but improved as a hitter thanks to an improved walk rate, seeing more pitches, hitting more fly balls, and even a healthy dose of stolen bases to boot. 

He also managed to be one of the few players on the team that didn’t turn into a pumpkin in high leverage situations. And most importantly, Kim is a known procurer of Good Vibes, with a smile that lights up the world, being BFFs with teammate Manny Machado, and even, very randomly, being a proponent of talking trash in Spanish.

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All of this, on top of the team having already lost superstar Juan Soto to the Yankees, makes the prospect of trading Ha-Seong Kim that much harder. 

Given the Padres recent issues with salary constraints and depth issues, though, it’s an idea that shouldn’t be dismissed outright. On top of the general sentiment of nothing being a given — that Kim could very well have played above his head last season, even if it’s unlikely — there are other areas the Padres could seriously improve in. 

Other Positions in Dire Need of An Upgrade

Currently, the Padres have a lot of question marks when it comes to their lineup. Following the departure of the aforementioned Soto alongside center fielder Trent Grisham, the Padres are currently set to fill those gaps with some combination of Jackson Merrill, Graham Pauley, or Jakob Marsee.

While there’s not necessarily anything wrong with betting on young talent to fill out your roster, having more established help for a team that’s in a win-now phase may be the better course of action. 

Perhaps a player like LaMonte Wade Jr. of the Giants — who could play both in the outfield and at first base — is something the Padres would be interested in. You might even be able to net two major-league caliber players for multiple positions, like another reliever for a team that has a questionable bullpen and just lost Josh Hader.

The Padres don’t need to go big-game hunting like they have in the past, because there’s still plenty of star-level players already on the team. What they need now is the depth, and Kim could aid greatly in that endeavor without having to further cripple the team going forward with salary constraints. 

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Kim is Set to Be a Free Agent

This is the most obvious of points to be made. Almost as if Padres fans aren’t allowed to have anything nice, Ha-Seong Kim is only under control for the 2024 season until hitting the open market. Given all the Padres financial issues, it’s hard to see a world in which they’ll be able to match the price he’ll command if he has another stellar season. 

But even if the Padres could afford an extension, should they?

Ha-Seong Kim, as good as he is, could have very well peaked offensively, and going all-in on utility players — even, again, when they’re this good — might not be the best allocation of resources. 

Furthermore, the Padres have been doing nothing but investing in whatever is right in front of their faces — buying high on everything that looks great without any thought on future ramification — for nearly the entirety of Preller’s tenure. And yet, they have failed to eclipse 89 wins even once. Why not try something new? Why continue to willingly be prisoners of the moment?

Freeing Jake Cronenworth

Speaking of being prisoners of the moment!

Jake Cronenworth, despite being a beloved player in this era of Padres baseball, may be the single most bizarre move the Padres have made. A good player, the Padres inexplicably decided to extend him — despite still having plenty of years of team control remaining — for another seven (7) years…until he’s 37 years of age.  

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Even crazier? They then decided to move him off of second base, where he was top-5 among all players at the position in fWAR, and move him to first base.

I dare you to take a wild guess as to what happened next. Cronenworth struggled mightily and continued his steady decline at the plate, but without the adage of his quality defense he became a borderline liability, accumulating just 1 fWAR in 2023. 

Imagine putting Nico Hoerner at first base? Or Francisco Lindor? Hyperbolic, sure, but that’s the basic gist of what occurred here. And now, Cronenworth’s lengthy contract has become an albatross that is unlikely to be taken on by nearly any team.

So instead of just trying to forcibly move on from him — or work on some sort of buy-out — just one year after the extension, why not try to salvage it? 

Trading Ha-Seong Kim would ostensibly allow you to do just that. Cronenworth could move back to second base and recoup some of his value. And if ZiPs projections are anything to go by, his bat may rebound to above average value.

Sure, losing Kim would cause an issue at third base, where he was expected to fill in for Manny Machado while he works his way back from surgery, but that shouldn’t prevent you from making a move that could benefit you greatly in the long term, not just one month or so of next season.

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It’s never easy giving up on established players. It’s even more difficult given everything the Padres have been through, and Kim’s magnetic personality and adulation from the fan base.

But it might prove to be an inspired move in the long-run and — while this will reek of cynicism and potentially get tomatoes thrown at me if it were said in public — that licorice taste goes down a whole lot easier when you’ve got a fresh glass of juicy, refreshing Winning to go along with it. 

Trading Ha-Seong Kim is not only the smart move, but the necessary one.