Should Padres extend Ha-Seong Kim instead of trade him as rumors intensify?

With the 2024 season set to begin, the Ha-Seong Kim trade talks are only getting louder.
2024 San Diego Padres shortstop Ha-Seong Kim, Spring Training
2024 San Diego Padres shortstop Ha-Seong Kim, Spring Training / Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/GettyImages

The San Diego Padres are at a crossroads with Ha-Seong Kim. The Gold Glove-winning shortstop is entering the final year of his contract and will be a free agent at the conclusion of the 2024 season.

This has raised questions about the Kim's future in San Diego. His name has appeared multiple times this offseason in trade rumors, as opposing clubs seen Kim's contract situation as an opportunity to secure his services. After all, the Padres have already traded away Juan Soto and have millions of dollars tied up in megastars like Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts and Fernando Tatis Jr.

But rather than trade Kim, perhaps president of baseball operations AJ Preller and the Padres front office should look to extend the infielder's contract beyond the 2024 season. Preller spoke with reporters at spring training, and expressed the team's interest in keeping Kim in San Diego over the long haul.

Should Padres extend Ha-Seong Kim instead of trade him as rumors intensify?

There are so many aspects of Kim's situation that are at play. His trade value, coming off his best season since signing with the Padres, will never be higher than it is right now. Kim hit .260/.351/.398 and his defensive metrics were off the charts. According to Baseball Savant, Kim was worth nine outs above average (OAA), ranking him in the 96th percentile.

If the Padres chose to extend Kim, one would have to believe that it would necessitate a position change for last year's big-name free agent acquisition. There have already been whispers about Bogaerts moving from shortstop to second base, and if Kim were inked to a long-term deal, the volume would be turned up on the former Boston Red Sox star finding a new home at the keystone.

The Padres payroll makes extending Ha-Seong Kim difficult

Looking at next year's free agent class, outside of Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, there's unlikely to be a better infielder on the open market than Kim. The lack of star-power will net Kim looks from several teams next winter, and it's very likely Kim will be targeting something similar to the seven-year, $177 million contract that Dansby Swanson signed with the Chicago Cubs in 2023. That might be shooting high, but another All-Star-caliber season could really multiply his value.

Would the Padres be willing to fork over $25 million per season to keep Kim in southern California? Machado, Bogaerts, and Tatis Jr. will combine to make over $80 million on average over the next several seasons. Can San Diego afford to see that number climb to over $100 million, or close to it?

That, in addition to the nearly $40 million AAV being paid out to the pitching duo of Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove would put the Padres' payroll over $140 million. Throw in Jake Cronenworth, and the Friars would be doling out over $150 million per season to only seven players.

Preller and the Padres front office are not in an enviable position. While keeping Kim in America's Finest City is certainly a strategy to pursue, the club has a talented young infielder down on the farm in Jackson Merrill who's looking to break into the big leagues in 2024.

If the San Diego Padres trade Ha-Seong Kim before the start of the upcoming season, they'll be sending a clear signal to the Friar faithful that they're focused on 2025 and beyond. That won't sit well with Pads fans. However, the potential return in exchange for Kim's services will only decrease if San Diego decides to trade their starting shortstop at the July 30 deadline.

Preller is stuck between a rock and hard place. While the Padres top executive said he sees Kim as a "huge part of our team," a contract extension would appear to be highly unlikely. However, it seems just as unlikely that San Diego will part ways with Kim prior to the start of their 2024 campaign.