According to the Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to terms with Korean outfielder Hyun-soo Kim. Leading up to the deal, the Orioles had been one of the teams linked to the 27-year-old, left-handed outfielder.
The deal is still pending a medical review, and is reportedly worth $7 million. The Orioles have not yet confirmed the deal.
Kim turns 28 in January, and was a free agent after playing nine years in the Korean Baseball Organization, all with the Doosan Bears. The 2015 season was one of the finest of Kim’s career, as he batted .326/.438/.541 with a career-high 28 home runs. Kim also drove in 121 runs, another career-high. In the KBO, Kim has hit .318/.406/.488. He is known as one of the best contact hitters in the extremely hitter-friendly league.
There is not a lengthy track record of position players leaving Korea nad experiencing overwhelming success in the United States, but Jung Ho Kang is coming off a very successful rookie year with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Byung-ho Park recently signed with the Minnesota Twins. The Orioles also put in a bid on Park, but did not win the right to negotiate with him. Kim did not have to go through the Korean posting process, and some thought he would remain in Asia.
The Orioles have invested enough in Kim that he should be viewed as a viable left field option for next year’s Opening Day lineup. Projecting him to match his Korean slash line in Major League Baseball would be foolish, but Kim is a solid hitter who makes contact, draws walks, and does not strikeout. All of those skills were in short supply for the Orioles last year as they struggled to replace Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis.
For a team that has always found ways to be creative in the international free-agent market, the signing of Hyun-soo Kim could be another under-the-radar move that pays big dividends down the road. For now, he joins Nolan Reimold, Henry Urrutia, L.J. Hoes, and Dariel Alvarez in the corner outfield mix in Baltimore.