Well, it has been quite a few days of spirited discussion and debate about a young pitcher that almost none of us know much about and have never seen pitch.
The Orioles signed Seong-Min Kim to a minor league contract Jan. 30. He either throws 80 or 83 mph, or maybe 88, depending on the report you read and trust most. He’s either a high shool sophomore or maybe entering his final year. Someone said Korean kids graduate at 19 so he could be a 17-year-old sophomore. His curveball is either top-notch for a kid his age or it might be lousy.
Did the Orioles give him a $550,000 bonus? That is what ESPNs Keith Law said via a Twitter dispatch and that amount has stuck. I haven’t had or seen anyone confirm or deny the amount.
So much to discuss here and so few actual facts.
Did Dan Duquette sign Kim because he truly likes his talent or did he just want to help open the door to Korea for the Orioles? Maybe it was a little of both, but did it backfire with the Korean Baseball Organization’s protest to Major League Baseball over the Orioles’ lack of protocol during the signing? How much will this hurt the Orioles moving forward?
I ask a lot of questions.
Duquette issued the following statement last night regarding Kim:
“On behalf of the Orioles organization, I offer a sincere apology to the Korea Baseball Organization and the Korea Baseball Association for the club’s unintentional breach of protocol in failing to tender a status check in the process of signing Seong-Min Kim. The Orioles respect Major League Baseball’s recruiting policies and the governing bodies and people that contribute to the growth of baseball around the world.”
Here are some of my opinions based on several conversations with various people involved with and/or covering this story this week.
* Kim will remain an Oriole and his contract will not be voided. In fact, no one with KBO seeks that result here. He should be in the Orioles’ minor league camp in a few weeks.
* Orioles scouts, for now, have been banned from the country by the Korean Baseball Associaton. That seems a bit of an overreaction to me and I don’t expect this to stick. My guess is that Orioles scouts will get back into that country.
* Did the Orioles create an international incident and bring disgrace to MLB as some are portraying this? Hardly. Not to minimize this issue at all, but it is hardly that. That is also an overreaction.
Major League Baseball has not issued any comments or statements on this matter and it appears that MLB will have something to say at some point. When that does happen, there remains the possibility of penalties and/or sanctions of some sort being levied against the Orioles. I have heard that is a distinct possibility. What form that will take, I have not heard.
MLB officials are somewhat on the spot here. I am sure they don’t want to seem disrespectful to the good people of that country and the KBO. The KBO has asked for penalties against the Orioles and maybe MLB will feel some pressure to honor that request.
It will be interesting to see if MLB is open to making any changes into its agreement with the KBO about signing Korean players. Right now, it is not against the rules for a major league team to sign a Korean amateur as the Orioles did. The KBO, I am certain, would like to leverage the furor over this to limit access to some or all of its amateurs moving foward. Will MLB be open to that?
* The Orioles clearly like the potential of Kim and Duquette even told me he could start with Single-A Delmarva in April. That would be lofty for an 18-year-old kid, as most high school age pitchers work for a short-season team during their first and even second pro seasons.
* After all this flap and controversy, there will be extra attention and scrutiny on Kim this season, maybe starting as soon as spring training. Fans will want to know if Law’s dissing of this signing proves correct or if the kid has some of the talent the Orioles say he has.
As per usual with any high-profile minor leaguer - and Kim now qualifies as that after the last few days - his every outing will be overly scrutinized and if he pitches poorly it will take about three starts before the fans start calling him a bust.
I would caution fans to maybe give him a full season and then pass some judgments, especially because this is not just an American high school kid. Kim also has cultural adjustments to make and some understanding of that would be appropriate here.
Having said all that, some fans will start to form opinions after his first spring side sessions. Is that crazy? Yes, it is.