Padres fans have every reason to believe that Ha-seong Kim will be on San Diego's Opening Day roster heading into the upcoming season. While trade rumors have been swirling this winter, president of baseball operations A.J. Preller is said to have put a high price tag on Kim's services.
And rightfully so. Kim has proven to be an elite defender, won a Gold Glove in 2023, and posted a 110 OPS+. Kim also has a very team-friendly deal heading into next season, though a mutual-option would allow the 28-year-old to test the free agent waters after 2024.
Despite a less-than-stellar starting rotation, trading Kim prior to Opening Day would seem rather foolish. But if the Friars don't live up to expectations or look to be out of the playoff hunt come July, the Padres have an insurance plan in place in the event Kim is dealt sometime this year.
Padres’ top prospect Jackson Merrill could prove to be Ha-seong Kim insurance
Jackson Merrill has put himself in position to be called up to the big leagues in 2024. The Padres 2021 first-round draft pick has maintained a relatively high batting average throughout his time in the minor leagues, and while the power hasn't quite caught up just yet, Merrill is barely 20 years old and has plenty of potential to hit 20-plus homers per season.
In 68 games at High-A Fort Wayne, Merrill showed Padres' scouts and front office executives enough to receive a midseason promotion to Double-A. Merrill even posted better numbers once he made the jump and hit .273/.338/.444 in 46 games with the San Antonio Missions.
Though Merrill is not on the 40-man roster at this time, and San Diego's non-roster invitees have yet to be released, one has to assume that the shortstop will receive an invite to major league spring training. With a little over 200 at-bats at Double-A last season, it wouldn't be shocking to see Merrill begin the 2024 season back in San Antonio before making the jump to Triple-A El Paso.
Merrill joins Ethan Salas as two of the Top 10 prospects in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. While Padres fans will likely have to wait one more year before seeing Salas at Petco Park, Merrill could receive the call midway through next season, especially if the Friars part ways with Kim at the trade deadline.