Should the St. Louis Cardinals extend Kwang Hyun Kim?
By Brett Ramsey
In his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals, Kwang Hyun Kim exceeded expectations. Should the Cardinals sign him for a few more seasons?
It’s becoming something of a tradition for the St. Louis Cardinals. Signing a player to an extension in or around spring training has been common for the team in the past. If the Cardinals continue this pattern, one potential option is pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim.
Signed in Dec. 2019, Kim was initially named the Cardinals’ closer. He recorded a save in his first outing, but when the team’s depth was tested after the COVID-19 outbreak, Kim earned a role in the starting rotation. He finished the season as a reliable arm in the rotation, finishing 3-0 with a 1.62 ERA in eight games (seven starts).
Kim, 32, is coming off his first MLB season. There are some reasons to be skeptical of a contract extension. Firstly, the comparison could be made to fellow rotation member Miles Mikolas.
Mikolas had a superb first season with the Cardinals after coming back to MLB (he had pitched for the Padres and Rangers previously) after pitching in Korea. His 2018 season saw him pitch to an 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA. He led the league in wins and had a dazzling season. He earned a four-year contract extension with the Cardinals following that season. As some should have expected, he regressed — in a pretty major way, actually. He went from leading the National League in wins to leading the NL in losses with 14 in 2019. His ERA jumped up to 4.16.
In 2020, he missed the entire season with Tommy John surgery. There is still time to turn things around and revert back to something close to his 2018 self, but so far that contract has not been kind for the Cardinals.
Enter Kim. He, like Mikolas, had a sparkling first season with the club. But what if teams get a better read on him in year two? Teams can update their scouting reports after seeing him in the major leagues for a season. One thing in Kim’s corner here is that his 2020 season consisted of only eight games, so not a huge sample size. That equals less opportunity for teams to get a good look.
Another positive aspect of a potential Kim extension is that he possibly would not be looking for a long-term deal. Would a two or three-year deal make sense? In a starting rotation that could potentially lose 3/5 of its pitchers (Wainwright, Kim, and Martinez) following the 2021 season due to expiring contracts, keeping Kim around for a few more seasons would maintain flexibility.
I don’t know what Kim would be looking for in a new deal or if the Cardinals would be interested in a contract extension. Maybe they want to keep options open so they can go into next offseason with some rotation spots open to pursue outside options while also creating competition for emerging young pitching prospects. I like this idea. I also think that if there is a deal to be made, it would be a smart idea to keep Kwang Hyun Kim around for a few more seasons.