Cardinals sign top South Korean pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim

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ST. LOUIS (AP)The St. Louis Cardinals searched all over the world, looking for the right kind of left-handed pitcher. They think they’ve found him in Kwang Hyun Kim.

The NL Central champions and the 31-year-old South Korean finalized an $8 million, two-year contract, a deal that would pay him $10 million over the two years if he pitches regularly.

Through an interpreter, Kim said Tuesday he had followed the Cardinals and their success while growing up and hoped someday to play for St. Louis.

At his Busch Stadium news conference, Kim held up a small sign that read ”Hello STL.”

He gets $4 million annually and can earn up to $1 million each year in performance bonuses: $500,000 for 40 games finished and $1 million based on starts: $300.000 apiece for 15 and 20, and $400,000 for 25.

Kim would get a $250,000 assignment bonus if traded and will become eligible for free agency when the contract ends.

Kim went 17-6 with a 2.51 ERA in 190 1/3 innings last season for the SK Wyverns, earning him the award as the best pitcher in the Korean Baseball Organization.

Kim held a sign that read ”Thank You SK” at his news conference in St. Louis.

”He’s someone that had a lot of desire to come and play here in the States,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. ”We had a lot of analytical support that backed up the success he was having over in the KBO, and we felt that when you looked at our needs, especially when you think about the left side of our pitching, it made a lot of sense to pursue this.”

Kim could be the Cardinals’ first full-time left-handed starting pitcher since Jaime Garcia made 30 starts in 2016. But it was Kim’s versatility that appealed most to the Cardinals.

The Cardinals had only two starts by lefties last year, both by rookie Genesis Cabrera.

”There are some pitchers out there that had no interest in us if they weren’t the starter,” Mozeliak said. ”We have a little more flexibility here, and the fact that he understands that it’s not a guarantee but appreciates the opportunity is very helpful.”

Kim won the KBO’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2009 when he went 16-4 with a 2.39 ERA. He is 136-77 with a 3.27 ERA in 298 games (279 starts) over 12 seasons with the Wyverns.

Kim went 28-14 with a 2.70 ERA in years since missing the 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

”The combination of what he was doing the last few years, obviously we felt confident that coming over here he could have success and clearly time will tell,” Mozeliak said. ”You look at the success he had over there, historically that seems to play here.”

If Kim makes the major league roster, he will become the 15th South Korean pitcher to appear in the major leagues and the second for the Cardinals after Seung-hwan Oh in 2016-2017.

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