Cardinals: Kwang-Hyun Kim close to signing with new team

Kwang Hyun Kim #33 of the St. Louis Cardinals sits in the dugout after being removed from the game against the Cleveland Indians during the third inning at Progressive Field on July 28, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
Kwang Hyun Kim #33 of the St. Louis Cardinals sits in the dugout after being removed from the game against the Cleveland Indians during the third inning at Progressive Field on July 28, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /
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Former St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Kwang-Hyun Kim is close to signing with new team, and it’s in the KBO where he spent 12 seasons.

I have made the argument that the St. Louis Cardinals should strongly consider re-signing Kwang-Hyun Kim this offseason. He is perhaps the most underrated free-agent pitcher on the market and for a team searching for more depth, Kim represents that and could be had on a club-friendly contract.

But Kim is on the verge of signing in the KBO, where he pitched before coming to Major League Baseball, according to Daniel Kim of ESPN. The SSG Landers requested a status check on Kim, which is standard procedure when signing a player from MLB, and Kim believes a deal to bring Kim back to the KBO is “close.”

It’s a blow for the Cardinals, though not an unexpected one. Throughout the regular season, reports emerged that Kim and the team had tension on numerous issues. What those issues were remains unclear and whether the team changing managers from Mike Shildt to Oli Marmol could make any difference in Kim’s changing also remains unclear.

But it evidently wasn’t enough to keep Kim in MLB. The lockout was likely a significant factor in Kim’s decision, with seemingly no end in sight, and the stability and familiarity in the KBO being a comfort factor for him. It was always something that was in play for Kim – he had said it was something he would consider in free agency – and the cancellation of regular season games is surely what pushed him to finalize an agreement overseas.

It leaves the Cardinals searching for more pitching depth, and it’s unlikely they find another arm as talented as Kim. Kim, 33, posted a very solid 2.97 ERA and 104/51 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 145.2 innings the last two seasons and was arguably their most dependable left-handed arm, both in the rotation and bullpen.

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Now, he’s on the verge of going back to the KBO, and makes the Cardinals’ search for pitching a little more challenging.