The St. Louis Cardinals should re-sign Kwang Hyun Kim
By Greg Simons
Like every other team, the St. Louis Cardinals are searching for additional pitching depth. Why not bring back a familiar face in Kwang Hyun Kim?
Every season, each team needs about 1500 innings worth of major league-quality pitching. Not every team achieves that, which is how you get the Baltimore Orioles’ results in 2021, allowing 5.9 runs per game en route to a 52-110.
Still, if the goal is to find pitchers who can get outs and prevent runs, and ideally get them at a good price, shouldn’t the St. Louis Cardinals at least consider pursuing a second contract with Kwang Hyun Kim?
No, he’s not an ace or someone who is going to eat a lot of innings, but Kim is a useful pitcher nonetheless. During his 2020-21 tenue with St. Louis, he posted a 2.97 ERA, 4.22 FIP and 134 ERA+, all beneficial rate stats.
Those numbers were accumulated over 145-2/3 innings, including 28 starts out of 35 total appearances, resulting in a 10-7 record in a Redbird uniform. The cost of that performance was a two-year, $8 million contract, with the first year of course prorated because of the truncated season.
While certainly not overpowering – as evidenced by a strikeout rate of only 17.2% during his Cardinals tenure, well below the MLB average of 23.2% – Kim was slightly better than average with free passes (8.4% vs. a league average of 8.7%) and surrendered homers much less often than a typical hurler (10.5% HR/FB vs a league average of 13.6%).
Assuming the 33-year-old could continue putting up similar numbers may be optimistic, with FanGraphs’ Steamer and ZiPS forecasting an ERA in the 4.50-4.60 range for Kim. That still is a useful pitcher as a fifth starter, long reliever or swingman, especially for an annual salary of $4 million, which probably would be about what it would cost to sign him again, and this time maybe just for a single season.
This all is based on Kim’s interest in returning to St. Louis, since there appeared to be some uneasy feelings between the team and player regarding how he was used throughout his tenure with the Cardinals.
Still, if he is open to coming back, the familiarity Kim and the Cardinals have with each other could lead to another mutually beneficial pact between the pitcher and the Cardinals.