Exactly a week ago on this website I sat down at my laptop and typed away, addressing Hyun Soo Kim‘s haters and defending the spring that the Korean outfielder has had so far. Now I don’t expect you to go back and read that piece. Why would you? It’s a week old.
The gist of that piece is basically: hey haters, cut the guy some slack. He’s putting the ball in play, has a mega-low BABIP and should be just fine this season.
So, don’t worry. It’s all good.
Well — it was.
Then Ken Rosenthal dropped this bomb on Birdland over the weekend:
Will #Orioles seek escape from deal with Kim? Story:… https://t.co/S706q7cU6p
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 27, 2016
Rosenthal highlighted that the Orioles parted ways with Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon just a year into his three-year deal and that they could do the same with Kim after his “bad” spring:
The O’s, according to sources, have talked internally about potentially trying to strike a similar arrangement with South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, who is struggling mightily in his first major-league spring training.
Orioles general manager Dan Duquette, asked Saturday if such a possibility was realistic, said, “I don’t know if we’re there yet,” indicating that he is still evaluating Kim.
Yeah. It’s a complex situation obviously. And for this piece, I’ll ignore the contract details that they’ll have to work through to even make such a move and instead focus on the why.
So, why? Why would the Orioles decide that 44 Spring Training at-bats is enough to kill a two-year, $7 million deal with what seems to be a high-upside OBP-type corner outfielder?
The first logical answer I came up with is: Joey Rickard.
The Rule 5’er has been everyone’s favorite Oriole this spring. I think I even saw Jabby Burns wearing his jersey in Sarasota over the weekend. I mean, Rickard-mania cannot be stopped. He’s slashing .396/.475/.566. His performance in March makes him seem like that next great Dan Duquette finding. A diamond in the rough, kinda thing.
Well, unless he’s 2011 Jake Fox. Remember when Fox led the Majors in homers (10) and extra-base hits (17) in the Spring? And then remember how he was designated for assignment on June 1.
Rickard has been awesome, but how do we know that a ninth round pick in 2012 that was left unprotected by the Rays in last year’s Rule 5 draft will transform into a worth-while contributor at the big league level?
It’s a huge risk in my opinion. And if he doesn’t pan out and Kim is gone, the O’s are stuck with the oft-injured Nolan Reimold in left field. Oh, and Mark Trumbo in right.
All spring, we’ve also heard whispers of the O’s optioning Kim to Triple-A Norfolk to start the season. They could only do that with his approval. Perhaps this story and the possibility of “sending him back to South Korea” would be enough for him to accept a month in the minors.
That could get him more accustomed the the culture, to life in the U.S. and the differences between the KBO and MLB. It’s less pressure that immediately putting him into the mix in Baltimore.
That theory actually makes more sense than an overreaction to Rickard’s spring performance.
Whatever the logic is with this line of thinking, I hope that the O’s are cautious in what they do next. Overreacting to anyone’s good or bad spring training statistics is never wise, especially for a newcomer to the league.
And I still think Kim will be fine based on the low strikeout totals he’s posted so far.
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