Instead of trading Ha-Seong Kim, San Diego could decide to move Jake Cronenworth
So much of the Padres' offseason trade rumor mill has centered around a possible trade of Ha-Seong Kim. Given that Kim is probably going to be a free agent after the season (he has a mutual option he will almost definitely not exercise), he fits the typical profile of a player that could get traded. However, there may be some more wisdom in moving infielder Jake Cronenworth instead.
For starters, Cronenworth is the strictly worse player overall. Ever since his rookie season, Cronenworth's offensive production has declined every season, and his defensive excellence elsewhere in the infield has not translated to first base very well. On a roster that is full of talented middle infielders, Cronenworth is kind of the odd man out at the moment.
That said, he is far from lacking value. Cronenworth is still a strong defender, and does have offensive upside if he can make some adjustments to let his hit tool play up. He can hit for a bit of power, and he did make a pair of All-Star Games in 2021 and 2022. Given that the market for quality middle infielders ahead of the 2024 season has been shallow at best, a guy like Cronenworth -- who would also come with team control through 2030 -- has a lot of appeal, and would net a nice package of prospects in return.
Instead of moving Kim, the Padres should absolutely try to trade Cronenworth. Maybe they use the $11-12 million a year in savings to try and keep Kim around long-term, or maybe they use the money to invest in the starting pitching staff more. In either case, moving Cronenworth may look shocking, given the Padres' investment in him, but it would really help San Diego bolster their roster and their payroll for the long haul.