Cardinals: Kwang-Hyun Kim signs record-breaking deal in KBO

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Kwang-Hyun Kim (33) is taken out of the game against the New York Mets in the first inning at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Kwang-Hyun Kim (33) is taken out of the game against the New York Mets in the first inning at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /
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Former St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Kwang-Hyun Kim has signed a record-breaking deal in the KBO, ending a two-year stint in MLB.

Former St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Kwang Hyun Kim and the SSG Landers in the KBO are in agreement on a four-year, $12.3 million deal ($15.1 billion won), the team announced, breaking a previous record held by a few players ($15 billion won).

In St. Louis, Kim pitched really well. In his first season in 2022, he started seven games (39 innings) and posted a 1.62 ERA and a 24/12 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In his second and final season, he posted a 3.46 ERA (106.2 innings). Combined, he produced a very solid 2.97 ERA in a combination of a starter and relief role.

Timing, however, did not help Kim or the Cardinals. He dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic in his first season and, as documented by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was taken in by Adam Wainwright to give him as much of a home away from home. He struggled with a back injury for most of the 2021 season and at one point was rushed to the hospital with a kidney issue, preventing him from ever taking hold of the rotation spot he so desperately coveted.

In free agency, Kim was very open to staying in MLB. A reunion with the Cardinals was never likely, though the argument was made that it should have been explored more seriously, and the team instead signed Steven Matz and continues to eye other lesser starting pitchers for the No. 6 spot in the rotation.

Other teams were interested in Kim, and some believed he could be a bargain addition late in the offseason (when it eventually resumes). But the ongoing lockout played a significant factor in Kim going back to the KBO and once the regular season was delayed, it was enough for Kim to agree to a contract and fly overseas to sign the deal.

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Kim was a good pitcher in St. Louis, but it could have been a whole lot better – and longer – had the COVID-19 pandemic and lockout not happened.

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