Although the Chicago Cubs have stated they are all but done focusing on the starting rotation, Kwang Hyun Kim is a name that is completely flying under the radar thus far in free agency. After completing his two-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, Kim is now searching for a new home.
There are multiple reasons the Cubs should look to invest in the former Cardinal. First and foremost, he’s been fantastic since coming to MLB from the KBO. Even so, his next contract will still likely be on the cheaper side – making him a potential steal in free agency.
Kim is a southpaw pitcher that would fit nicely into the Cubs starting rotation. He is a solid 3 or 4-hole pitcher with upside beyond that should he continue to roll in the coming years. Adjusting from the KBO to MLB is a difficult task that Kim has handled well. Glancing at the numbers, it’s questionable and almost borderline suspicious why the Cardinals let him walk in the first place.
The left-hander arrived on the scene during last year’s pandemic-shortened season, making an immediate impact for St. Louis, pitching beautifully with a 3-0 record and 1.62 ERA. He outperformed peripherals, evidenced by a 3.88 FIP. He followed that up in 2021 by going 7-7 with a still extremely respectable 3.46 ERA and 4.34 FIP.
In Korea, Kim recorded seven consecutive winning seasons before coming to the States. In fact, in his final two seasons in the KBO, he notched back-to-back sub-3.00 ERA campaigns, going 11-8 with a 2.98 ERA in 2018 and 17-6 with a 2.51 ERA in 2019, respectively. For his KBO career, Kim compiled an impressive record of 136-77.
Chicago Cubs: Kwang Hyun Kim could further bolster rotation depth
The Cubs don’t need him to put up those numbers. Even if Kim simply replicated what he did this year for St. Louis, he’d be a nice piece to the puzzle. Adding the lefty on a contract that won’t break the bank would give Chicago four starters all capable of putting up above-average marks, with Kim joining Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley.
That wouldn’t give the team the strongest rotation of baseball like we’ve seen assembled in New York with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer anchoring the Mets’ staff or the three-headed monster up in Milwaukee, but it would still put Chicago in a much stronger spot. So much so they could make a run at a return to the postseason in 2022.
I’m really not sure why more teams haven’t shown a serious interest in Kim. He clearly has what it takes in the big leagues. Even on a two-year deal given the fact that he is entering his age-33 season, Kim appears to have plenty left in the tank. Perhaps if the Cubs find themselves with funds available after *hopefully* landing a big fish in free agency, they can further bolster the starting rotation with yet another slightly above average arm.