Kim Ha-Sung, no other than Ichiro Ohtani, paces 8.2 WAR to $20 million annual salary
The San Diego Padres’ Kim Ha-seong finally broke through the ‘5’ Wins Above Replacement (WAR) mark.
Kim had a career-high performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 25, going 2-for-3 with two home runs, three RBIs, two runs scored, and one stolen base.
Kim’s Baseball-Reference WAR, or bWAR, jumped to 5.1 from 4.8 the day before, finally surpassing 5. As of today, only Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels (6.8), Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Atlanta Braves (5.1), and Kim are the only players with a bWAR above 5. That’s second in the National League (N) and third in the majors overall.안전놀이터
It’s worth noting that Kim, who has dominated on the defensive side of the ball, has also made a name for himself on offense since the summer. His defensive bWAR of 2.1 still leads both leagues combined. But his offensive bWAR of 3.3 is already approaching last year’s level (3.7).
After hitting his first multi-homer game of the season in Pittsburgh, Kim batted .349 with four homers, six RBIs, and nine runs scored in his next 11 games, and since June, he’s batting .301 (47-for-156) with nine homers, 19 RBIs, and 33 runs scored in 45 games.
If he keeps up his pace, Kim could finish the year with a bWAR of 8.2. Among Asian players, only Ohtani and Ichiro Suzuki have posted a season bWAR of 8.0 or higher. Ohtani posted an 8.9 in 2021 and 9.6 last year, while Ichiro posted a 9.2 in 2004. That means Kim is starting to look like an Asian superstar.
As of today, in 96 games, Kim is batting .270 (86-for-318) with 14 home runs, 37 doubles, 53 RBI, 18 stolen bases, a .363 on-base percentage, a .447 slugging percentage, and an OPS of 0.810. His home runs and doubles are already career highs, and his RBI and runs scored are sure to be career highs as well.
Last year’s second-place finish in NL shortstop Gold Glove voting validated his defensive prowess, but his offensive prowess has also garnered some recognition this season. Among the 75 NL hitters with at least one plate appearance, he ranks 25th in batting average, 14th in slugging percentage, 0.34 on-base percentage, and 27th in OPS.
Kim’s status on the team is beginning to be viewed as that of Fernando Tatis Jr. AP Yonhap
All eyes now naturally turn to Kim’s next contract. After signing a “4+1 year” deal with San Diego in December 2020, he can become a free agent after next season.
While it’s difficult to accurately calculate Kim’s value as a free agent, we can find comparisons. Let’s look at the performance and salaries of fellow Asian hitters.
Masataka Yoshida of the Boston Red Sox, who broke into the big leagues this year, is batting .315 with 11 home runs, 51 RBI, 52 runs scored, and an OPS of 0.870. Yoshida’s bWAR is 1.9, one-third of Kim’s. Yoshida, who signed a five-year, $90 million contract, will make $15.6 million this season.
Boston Japanese slugger Masataka Yoshida has a bWAR of 1.9, one-third that of Kim Ha-Sung. AFP Yonhap
Chicago Cubs Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki is batting .262 with eight home runs, 33 RBIs, 35 runs scored, and a .741 OPS in his second year with the team. His bWAR is just 0.5. His five-year, $85 million contract is worth $18 million this season.
This year’s salaries for hitters with a bWAR of 4.0 or higher are $17 million for Acuna Jr, $35.5 million for Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager (4.6), $27 million and $25.4 million for LA Dodgers Freeman (4.5) and Mookie Betts (4.5), $24.5 million for Tampa Bay Rays Wander Franco (4.2), and $12.5 million for Toronto Blue Jays Matt Chapman (4.2).
They signed long-term extensions as free agents or before they hit free agency. In Franco’s case, however, he won’t make more than $10 million until 2025 because he debuted in 2021 and signed an 11-year, $182 million extension early last year.
If Kim were to sign an extension with San Diego right now or become a free agent after next season with a team that makes an offer, he could easily command an average annual salary of $15 million to $20 million.
According to The Athletic, “Kim, the Padres’ undisputed MVP this year, hit a two-run homer in the first inning to lead off the fifth. His second homer drew a loud but relatively quiet cheer from the fans who packed the stands.