In somewhat of a surprise maneuver, the Minnesota Twins have been announced as the winner of the bidding for Korean first baseman Byung-Ho Park. With a bid of $12.85 million, the Twins have demonstrated a strong and committed interest to the KBO slugger.
At 29 years of age, Park is considered one of the top hitters in the Korea Baseball Organization. While it's known as a league that caters to hitters, it's notable that Park crushed 105 home runs over the last two years - and 173 over the last four.
For what it's worth, it sounds like Park already has a pretty good grasp of the English language.
Strengths and Weaknesses
I had a conversation with Sung Min Kim of River Avenue Blues, who is very familiar with Park. We went over Park's weaknesses and positional availability first.
@JesseLundSBN position-wise, I'd say he's strictly a 1B or DH. His weakness? I'd say his big swing could result in a lot of K's— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) November 9, 2015
@JesseLundSBN which already have in KBO. He still hit for high avg there. Just the matter of hitting for a decent one in ML— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) November 9, 2015
Kim also said that Park had played some third in the early part of his career but never exhibited "a good feel" for it. He also referenced this video:
And strengths? The power, first and foremost. You can see Park talking about his bat flip here.
@JesseLundSBN yea I have no doubt that his raw power will play well. Even when he was a prospect w unpolished hit tool, his power was there— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) November 9, 2015
The issue that everyone will be focusing on first and foremost is that the Twins have committed a large sum of money towards an international player, just for the right to exclusively negotiate a contract which must be paid above and beyond the posting bid. The second issue, the one which is already concerning Twins fans, is how the club will find him playing time.
Joe Mauer is Minnesota's starting first baseman, and regardless of how this scenario plays out he won't be moving back behind the plate. Perhaps by moving Miguel Sano into the outfield, or trading Trevor Plouffe, the club could free up plate appearances at designated hitter. The follow up question is how the team will then deal with playing time for Kennys Vargas, Oswaldo Arcia, and other players who are might be bruised throughout the season and healthy enough to hit but not play the field.
Until we know whether or not the Twins can actually get a deal signed, it's all speculation.
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For the moment, this is a pleasant surprise. We know that Minnesota needs to be aggressive if they want to ramp up for multiple runs at October. Even if this isn't the way we expected them to go about it it shows a willingness to step into the fray, even when the fallout may not exactly be clear.
We'll follow this story over the next couple of days, and you can expect updates here as they come.