In what has been a quiet offseason for the St. Louis Cardinals, the team made it official Tuesday (Dec. 17) by announcing the signing of 31-year-old left-handed pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) to a two-year contract. Kim has played the last 13 seasons in Korea, and spent his entire career with SK Wyverns. Kim had been in St. Louis the last few days undergoing a physical and negotiating a contract.
The Post-Dispatch reported the deal is worth $8 million and the Cardinals will also pay a $1.6 million “posting” fee (20 percent of the contract) to his team. Other teams that were reportedly also interested in Kim were the Dodgers, Cubs, Mets, Padres, Royals and Diamondbacks.
Kim was joined at the press conference by Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and Kim’s representative from Korea. He will wear No. 33. At one point, he smiled and held up a small sign that said, “Hello STL.”
Kim took questions from the media and answered with the help of an interpreter. He mentioned that it has been a dream of his to play in the Major Leagues. Kim also said he “prefers to start,” but understands the Cardinals have a system of how they operate and he will just head to spring training to compete for a job.
Kim missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but since then has put up impressive numbers, posting a 2.98 ERA in 2018 and 2.51 in 2019, striking out 190 batters this past season. His lifetime record is 136-77.
He received the KBO Best Pitcher Award for 2019, leading the league in quality starts (24), was second in wins (17) and strikeouts and third in ERA and innings pitched (190.1). During his second season in Korea as a 19 year old, Kim was named the KBO Most Valuable Player after he had a 16-4 record, 2.39 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 162 innings.
The signing of Kim is one that might help the Cardinals if he can earn a spot in the rotation. Last year, the Cardinals had only two games started by a left-handed pitcher (Genesis Cabrera) and with the uncertainty surrounding Carlos Martinez, this is a move that might provide the Cardinals some breathing room and depth.