The Padres make a change at shortstop

Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, the San Diego Padres made a surprising but sensible change in the infield.

Xander Bogaerts will switch positions with Ha-Seong Kim. The move makes a lot of sense, as Kim is far better defensively than Bogaerts at shortstop.

In fact, A.J. Preller’s signing of Bogaerts to an 11-year $280 million deal was a head-scratcher. The Padres did not need a shortstop. Kim has proven to be an asset at short, and Fernando Tatis Jr. also has experience at the position. Defensively, Tatis is far better in the outfield, and last year, he moved to right, where he excelled. More importantly, Kim has proven his prowess at short, and he’s a bargain at $7 million a year.

Defensively, there’s no comparison between Bogaerts and Kim. According to FANGRAPHS’ advanced fielding, over his career, Bogaerts has been far below average at short, outs above average at -31, and defensive runs saved at -54. Kim’s defensive numbers at shortstop are far better in fewer games- OAA 4.2, DRS 22. Although the switch will improve the defense at short, Bogaerts will have to learn a new position during spring training.

With the Boston Red Sox from 2013 to 2022, he played 50 games at third but has no experience at second. His main value to the Padres will involve his bat, not his glove. In 10 years with the Red Sox, Bogaerts compiled a 35.2 WAR on offense.

In 155 games in San Diego, Bogaerts has batted .285, OBP .350, wRC+ 120, WAR 4.4. Kim batted .260, OBP .351, wRC+ 82, WAR 4.4. Overall, the two share a WAR of 4.4. Although Kim’s overall hitting can’t match Bogaert’s performance, the South Korean has made huge strides since he first arrived. His OPS+ has risen from 73 to 110 since 2021.

Kim has had to adjust to the pitching in the United States, but his defense has never been questioned. Last year, he won a Gold Glove in the National League as a utility player and ranked 8th in Wins Above Replacement in the NL and 7th with 2.1 in Defensive WAR.

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Defensively, Bogearts is subpar at shortstop. Overall, his DRS -54 does not inspire confidence, and it makes much more sense to move him to second base despite having no big-league experience. He’ll undoubtedly have to concentrate on the switch during spring training. The Padres can only hope that Bogeart’s defense at second will be an improvement over short.

Last year, the Bogaerts deal helped send the payroll into territory unimagined in San Diego. The Padres ranked third behind the big-spending New York Yankees and Mets at $165 million. Xander Bogaerts leads the team at $25 million, with Joe Musgrove at $20 million, Manny Machado at $13 million, Yu Darvish at $15 million, and Fernando Tatis Jr. at $11 million.

During his tenure in San Diego, A.J. Preller has had a habit of getting attracted to shiny objects like Bogaerts in his search for the Padres’ first World Series trophy. However, the increase in payroll has not changed the outcome. Last year, the Padres finished in third place (82/80) in the National League West behind the Dodgers (100/62) and the Arizona Diamondbacks (84-78).

Thanks to the decrease in spending to around $200 million, the Padres weren’t able to keep outfielder Juan Soto or starting pitchers Blake Snell, Seth Lugo, or Michael Wacha. There are still holes to fill despite the fact that the Padres will start spring training on February 22 against the Los Angeles Dodgers in South Korea. Xander Bogearts has a narrow window of time to adjust to his new position. However, Ha-Seong Kim will feel right at home.

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