Could the Yankees acquire this speedy Padres shortstop?

Ha-Seong Kim, yankees, padres
Jul 3, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; San Diego Padres shortstop Ha-Seong Kim (7) reacts after hitting a two run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are an amazing team, but that doesn’t mean everyone on the roster is playing well. Isiah Kiner-Falefa has struggled mightily with the bat, all while not being more than just a good glove. Typically you need a defensive specialist to be an elite defender. The Padres are a less amazing but still great team, but they haven’t gotten the power surge they expected they could have this year. To win a World Series, you need to hit HRs.

Perhaps the answer is Oswald Peraza, but perhaps he’s on his way out in a trade. Anthony Volpe won’t be ready for 2022, and there’s no reason to rush a young kid and ruin his development. Both teams have a need, and both teams hold potential solutions for each other. The Yankees have a struggling Joey Gallo in desperate need of a fresh start, and the Padres have Ha-Seong Kim, who’s eating $7 million in payroll and is playing a position their franchise star Fernando Tatis Jr. is getting back when he’s healthy.

Could we potentially see a deal here?

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One of the Most Underrated Shortstops in Baseball

Ha-Seong Kim currently boasts a 99 OPS+ slashing .235/.326/.354 with a 2.2 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference. He’s on pace to post a 4.2 WAR if he plays 150 games, a high mark among shortstops. What makes Kim great is that he is a stellar defender at 2B/SS/3B, but we’re going to highlight his defense at shortstop for now. Across 754.0 innings at SS, he’s posted incredible defensive numbers since 2021:

  • 12 DRS (T-5th)
  • 6.9 UZR/150 (3rd)
  • 5 OAA (9th)

Those are elite numbers considering that DRS and OAA are volume stats, meaning more innings played at the position inflate those stats. He has just 96 games at shortstop, so to rank higher than players with ~200 games there since 2021 is ridiculous.

Let’s circle back to the bat, and we’ll use OPS+ to illustrate a point here. OPS+ is simply OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging) but put on an index. 100 is considered average, and anything above or below 100 is that percentage better or worse than the average. For example, a 105 OPS+ indicates a hitter is 5% better than the average hitter, while a 95 OPS+ would indicate a hitter who’s 5% worse than average. OPS+ adjusts for the run environment of the given year, with different seasons having different reasons for offensive spikes or offensive lulls.

As previously mentioned, Kim’s OPS+ is at a 99, meaning his OPS is 1% worse than the average 2022 hitter. He’s an average hitter this year, so why should I fawn over him as an upgrade over IKF? The defense might be better, but is that enough to warrant getting a new starter? Well, let’s look at IKFs OPS+, sitting just at a 84 OPS+, 16% worse than the average hitter in 2022. That’s a 15% increase in offensive production in your lineup. For context, going from Aaron Hicks (109 OPS+) to Andrew Benintendi (122 OPS+) would be a smaller increase in offensive production (13%). One may point to IKF hitting .267 and Kim hitting .236, but I then point to Kim’s .326 OBP compared to IKF’s .317 OBP. It’s an offensive and defensive upgrade, and the Yankees could use both at SS.

A Fresh Start For Joey Gallo

There is a lot of speculation that Joey Gallo cannot handle NY. I do believe it to be true, as Gallo doesn’t just have bad numbers on the season but drastic home and road splits. San Diego isn’t a small city, but it’s less demanding than NY. Pressure is everywhere when wearing the pinstripes, and it’s clearly gotten to Gallo:

  • On the road, Joey Gallo has posted a .732 OPS, 112 wRC+, and has hit 7 of his 10 HRs
  • At home, Joey Gallo has posted a .512 OPS, 52 wRC+, and has hit 3 of his 10 HRs

The player that could hit 40 HRs is still there, but it isn’t happening with the Yankees. AJ Preller has always loved Joey Gallo, being a part of the Texas Rangers when he rose to the top of prospect boards. As Padres GM, he’s tried multiple times to land the slugger, and this is a new opportunity for Preller to get his hands on Gallo. The Padres rank 24th in Home Runs, and if they get the version of Gallo that can launch baseballs into orbit, they’ll get a big boost in their push to win a World Series.

Making the Financials Work

Ha-Seong Kim is set to make $7,000,000 towards the Luxury Tax while Joey Gallo makes $10,275,000, and with the Padres wanting to stay under that $230 million luxury tax mark, the Yankees will have to pay part of Gallo’s contract so that the Padres are enticed to make the move. The Yankees could finally get the proper stopgap who is an elite defender and has a good enough bat. The Padres could also get IKF if they wanted a backup infielder at a cheaper price.

With the Yankees taking ~2.56 million of the remaining ~5.17 million, they’ll help the Padres offset the money, and they both get a player that fits exactly what they want. Here’s the Yankees lineup with Kim:

  1. DJ LeMahieu 2B (122 OPS+)
  2. Aaron Judge CF (174 OPS+)
  3. Anthony Rizzo 1B (141 OPS+)
  4. Giancarlo Stanton RF (136 OPS+)
  5. Gleyber Torres DH (130 OPS+)
  6. Josh Donaldson 3B (105 OPS+)
  7. Aaron Hicks LF (109 OPS+)
  8. Jose Trevino C (112 OPS+)
  9. Ha-Seong Kim SS (99 OPS+)

Ha-Seong Kim seems like a small upgrade, but even small changes make remarkable differences to a team. He’s a pretty good shortstop, is young, athletic, and could be a utility guy for the Yankees as Volpe gets ready to take the mantle as the franchise shortstop.