Shortly after I reported that the Orioles had agreed to a two-year, $7 million deal with South Korean outfielder Hyun-soo Kim -- pending medical review -- the questions started pouring in on Twitter.
The most repeated question – in various forms – was, ‘Does this move mean the Orioles have given up pursuing other offensive players?’
Simply put, the answer is no.
The Orioles have just one set starting outfielder in Adam Jones. Adding a second -- the assumption is Kim will be the primary starting left fielder, though he’ll have to earn that distinction in spring training – is still a legitimate possibility.
Kim was described to me by a talent evaluator as an adequate left fielder. He’s nothing special, but he should make most routine plays. His arm probably isn’t strong enough to play right field every day, but if the Orioles landed a superb left fielder, they’d probably at least see if he could handle right.
The contract is also very team friendly -- $3.5 million a year for two seasons does not stretch the payroll.
Now, does that mean the Orioles are going to go out and immediately sign Alex Gordon or Justin Upton (or Chris Davis) to a megadeal?
The Kim signing, in a sense, is in a vacuum. They needed an on-base percentage guy who can play the outfield and bat from the left side. Kim checks all of those boxes. But he’s probably not going to be much of a power hitter – 15 homers is probably a fair estimate.
The Orioles are still looking for another legitimate bat in the lineup. They were before Kim and after him. But they also know what they want to spend on specific players, and that hasn’t changed with this agreement.
One other frequent question I received was whether Kim would fill the leadoff spot. His .406 career on-base percentage in nine-plus seasons in South Korea suggests he has that skill. But he’s a husky-looking guy, listed by the Korea Baseball Organization as 6 feet 2, 220 pounds, and so that might not be his spot.
Ideally, he seems to be a No. 2 contact hitter – he walks more than he strikes out – but the Orioles might not have a choice if they don’t end up signing a prototypical leadoff hitter.
One other thing about Kim: He is exceptionally popular in South Korea. So, expect a whole lot of interest from that country in Orioles baseball in 2016.