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South Korean slugger Kim expects Padres to win World Series
By BERNIE WILSON
SAN DIEGO (AP) South Korean slugger Kim Ha-seong left no doubt how he feels about his new team, the San Diego Padres.
"The main reason I joined the Padres is that the Padres are not only a contender but will become the World Series champions this year. I want to be part of a winning team," Kim said through a translator during an introductory videoconference on Tuesday.
Asked what he was looking forward to the most and what his biggest challenge would be, he repeated his main goal.
"First and foremost is the Padres winning the World Series and I would like to contribute significantly to that winning team," Kim said from Korea. "Personally the challenge to me, my goal is to become the Rookie of the Year."
The confident Kim could get his wish if everything comes together for the Padres, who got a whole lot better in the span of just a few days last week. That's when general manager A.J. Preller reloaded his injury-depleted rotation by trading for Yu Darvish and Blake Snell, and signing Kim, a seven-year veteran of the KBO League.
The 25-year-old infielder signed a $28 million, four-year deal that could be worth $34 million over five seasons if a mutual option is exercised.
Led by Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, the Padres reached the playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. After beating the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild-card round, they were swept out of the NL Division Series by the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, who went on to win the World Series.
During an opening statement, Kim said it was "truly my honor to join the San Diego Padres, the major leagues' best baseball team with tremendous firepower and excellent pitching."
He's expected to add to that firepower.
In 138 games with the Kiwoom Heroes last season, Kim batted .306 while setting career highs with 30 home runs, a .397 on-base percentage and .921 OPS. He had 109 RBIs, 23 stolen bases, 111 runs scored and 75 walks, with 68 strikeouts.
In seven seasons, he hit .294 with 133 homers and 575 RBIs. He played 96 games at shortstop and 55 at third base.
"I play very aggressively, hustle a lot and I think I'll be an exciting addition to the Padres," Kim said.
The Padres are set at third base with Machado and at shortstop with Tatis. Machado was third in NL MVP balloting and Tatis was fourth.
"My best position for the Padres will be second base," Kim said.
The Padres could platoon Kim and Jake Cronenworth, who tied for second in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
"I'm very excited to be part of a team with such great talent, as Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis, Jake Cronenworth and Eric Hosmer," Kim said. "As a new addition to the team, I too will grow as a player as well as contributing significantly to the team.
Asked what he could learn from those four players, Kim said: "These are great players. They have more experience. But by training with them and playing along with them I will learn and grow as a player. I hope to melt in and contribute to the team by playing along with them."
"These are relatively young players and so am I. We will play as a team and there will be a synergetic effect as I join the team, among the infielders."
With MLB scheduled to play a normal-length season, the Padres were looking to add to their depth and versatility.
Preller said Kim will initially get playing time at shortstop, second base and third base, "but we feel he can play anywhere on the field. We clearly, with the investment, see him as a guy that's going to impact our team. We feel very confident that playing time-wise, he's going to blend in really nicely with our club. We're super excited to have him on board."
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Updated January 5, 2021