photo: Kwang-Hyun Kim and John Mozeliak (St. Louis Cardinals)
The St. Louis Cardinals added a new left-handed pitcher from Korea while saying goodbye to a Cuban-born outfielder. Our history feature highlights five other Cardinals, current and former, with Asian roots.
Korean lefty signs two-year deal
The Cardinals announced on Tuesday, December 17 that Korean left hander Kwang-Hyun Kim has agreed to terms on a two-year contract. Kim pitched for the Korean Baseball Organization for the past 12 years, and sought a move to MLB for the 2020 season. The deal is worth $8 million plus incentives with 20% percent additional ($1.6 million) going to his former team as a posting fee.
The 31-year old left hander, nicknamed “KK”, posted an ERA of 3.27 with 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings in his KBO career. Kim had Tommy John surgery in 2017, but returned healthy for the 2018 season, posting an ERA of 2.98. The lefty throws a mid-90s fastball and a slider that is his best pitch.
Kim’s role in the KBO was as a starter, but his role in St. Louis is yet to be determined. The health and effectiveness of Carlos Martinez may be the determining factor of whether Kim heads to the rotation or the bullpen.
To make room on the 40-man roster, Memphis outfielder Adolis Garcia was designated for assignment, then traded to the Texas Rangers for cash considerations. Garcia was one of a plethora of outfielders in the upper levels of Cardinals system and spent the entire 2019 season at Memphis.
Trade and Acquisition Rumors
Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak told reporters this past week that the team was still in the mix for free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna has reportedly fielded interest from several other teams, including the Cincinnati Reds, and is thought to be seeking a multi-year deal.
Mark Saxon of The Athletic recently tweeted that it appeared unlikely the Cardinals will sign their former left fielder, given their preference for a left handed bat, but in a later chat, pegged Ozuna’s odds of returning to St. Louis at 50 percent. The length of contract the outfielder is seeking may be a hindrance to the Cardinals re-signing him.
- 12/17 The Cardinals signed free agent LHP Kwang-Hyun Kim.
- 12/18 The Cardinals designated OF Adolis Garcia for assignment.
- 12/21 The Cardinals traded OF Adolis Garcia to the Texas Rangers for cash considerations.
There are no new injuries to report.
The next important date on the MLB offseason calendar is January 10. This is the date when teams and their arbitration eligible players both submit salary amounts for arbitration. The Cardinals have only one arbitration eligible player, John Gant.
Should the Cardinals not reach agreement with Gant on a 2020 salary, an arbitration hearing to determine his salary will be held some time in February.
The annual Winter Warm-Up fan festival is scheduled for January 18-20 at the Hyatt Regency in St. Louis. Admission and autograph tickets are currently on sale at mlb.com/cardinals/fans/winter-warm-up .
Blast from the Past
This past week the Cardinals signed Korean left handed pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim to a two-year major league contract. Kim is one of three Asian players signed as international free agents by the Cardinals in franchise history, and one of six Cardinals players of Asian descent. This week’s Blast from the Past briefly looks at the history of Asian players for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals have signed three Asian players as international free agents over the recent past. So Taguchi was the first Asian player signed by the Cardinals. Taguchi, born and raised in Japan, joined the Cardinals in January 2002 as a free agent. Prior to that, Taguchi played for the Orix Blue Wave from 1992-2001 and was a teammate of Ichiro Suzuki.
Taguchi played the first half of 2002 for the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds. He made his major league debut with St. Louis on June 10, 2002 at the age of 32. Taguchi was re-signed in free agency on December 22, 2004 and remained with the Cardinals through the 2007 season. The Cardinals declined Taguchi’s 2008 option and released him on December 5, 2007. Taguchi signed a one-year deal with the Phillies on December 23, 2007.
In his six seasons with the Cardinals, Taguchi slashed .283/.336/.391 with 19 home runs and 154 RBI. Taguchi played one year with the Phillies and one year with the Chicago Cubs. He then returned to Japan and concluded his career with his old team, the Orix Blue Wave. Taguchi announced his retirement from baseball on July 31, 2012.
On January 11, 2016, the Cardinals signed Korean RHP Seung-Hwan Oh to a two year contract. Prior to that, Oh played for the Samsung Lions of the KBO from 2005-2013, and then pitched two seasons for the Hanshin Tigers of the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan.
In two seasons with the Cardinals, Oh worked out of the bullpen and posted an ERA of 2.85, saving 39 games. He pitched 139 innings with a strikeout rate of 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Oh became a free agent at the end of the 2017 season and signed for 2018 with the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto traded him mid-season to the Colorado Rockies, where he remained until his release in July 2019. Oh returned to Korea in August 2019 and signed with the Samsung Lions.
In addition to Taguchi, Oh, and now Kim, the Cardinals have drafted three players of Asian descent who have made the major leagues. Kolten Wong, whose father is of Chinese descent, was drafted by the Cardinals in 2011 and currently plays second base for the team. Wong is a native of Hawaii.
Tommy Pham was drafted by the Cardinals in 2006 and made his major league debut with the Cardinals in 2014. Pham’s father is Vietnamese. Pham was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018 and dealt again to the San Diego Padres earlier this month.
Tommy Edman was drafted by the Cardinals in 2016. He made his major league debut on June 8, 2019 and remained on the team through the regular season and postseason. Edman was drafted as an infielder and played the infield in the minor leagues but also appeared in the outfield for St. Louis. Edman’s mother is Korean.
Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation
Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.
Follow Marilyn Green on Twitter @Marilyncolor.
© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.