The surprises just keep on coming.
When it was first announced that the Twins won the bid for Byung Ho Park, I was shocked. After all, this is a team that typically makes minor tweaks through the free agent market. Their idea of making a splash is signing Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana, after all. Thus, the announcement that they submitted the highest bid at over $12 million was interesting, to say the least.
Then, it was the idea of figuring out where Park was going to play. He's a first baseman and DH, but the Twins were already loaded with Miguel Sano, Joe Mauer, Trevor Plouffe, and you could even include Oswaldo Arcia and Kennys Vargas. However, the Twins made announcements that Sano would start working out in the outfield rather than trading Plouffe. Granted, there's still plenty of time for other moves to be made, but the Twins sure look poised to build perhaps the strongest righthanded lineup in the Central, if not the entire American League.
Now, the latest surprise was the (lack of) money thrown at Park. The four years on his contract wasn't unexpected, but the total commitment of just $12 million is insane, as I commented in Jesse's original post about Park's signing. Insane in a good way, that is.
On the same day that the Boston Red Sox signed David Price for seven years and $217 million, the Twins went out and found their DH over the next couple years for practically 5% of that cost. Now, pitching and DH-ing are on opposite ends of the spectrum for difficulty, but in a sport where mashing taters can earn you $15 million per year, the Twins just handed out a contract that has so little risk that it's unbelievable.
A simple way to measure the value of a contract to the team is by using dollars per WAR. Because hating on Joe Mauer isn't enough, he's been worth $23 million per win over the past two seasons. On the open market, FanGraphs estimates that teams would pay roughly $8 million per win when signing free agents. Thanks to Park's 4-year, $12 million contract, he doesn't even need to compile 2 WAR over the next four seasons to make this contract worthwhile.
What would Park need to do to return equal value on his contract? Well, if we just need 2 WAR over 4 years, we can overshoot just a bit with Brandon Moss. Last season, he hit .226/.304/.407 while mainly playing DH, 1B, and RF for the Indians and Cardinals. No, Park isn't likely to see some time in the outfield, but that's not a very tough bar to clear just to match his contract. With his offensive prowess, I think he can hit better than that and the Twins should easily receive value that clears the salary that Park will make over the next four years.
It's very rare for us to see contracts this small getting handed out to players. The fact that the Twins gave it to the guy that should really only DH and play first base makes it even more impressive. Though I'm sure the expectations will be high for the man with a resume as polished as his, we should remember that Park will not need to achieve very much in order for his addition to be a net positive for the Twins.