Are the Minnesota Twins the Byung-ho Park mystery team?
9:22: Heyman tweets the Twins won bidding on Park. Full story to come.
9:08: Jeff Passan tweets the White Sox are out.
8:40 a.m.: Heyman tweets the Rockies (officially) and Phillies are now out. This leaves the Brewers, Reds, Cubs, Twins and White Sox.
8:26 a.m.: Heyman also rules out another favorite, the Houston Astros.
7:32 a.m.: Jon Heyman tweets the Pirates are out on Park. They were among my favorites for their recent history with Nexen, and their active search for a first baseman.
Update: Darren Wolfson tweets that he’s checked, but only silence from Minnesota’s end. I second his doubt about the Twins winning the posting fee.
As more and more teams are reportedly out as the winning bidders for Korean slugger Byung-ho Park, it might be time to take a serious look at the Minnesota Twins as an option — albeit a surprising one.
We know the Twins scouted Park and owner Jim Pohlad has given General Manger Terry Ryan carte blanche this off season to pursue free agents a level below the David Price and Jason Heyward tier. We also know a mystery team won the $12.85 million posting fee from Park’s Nexen Heroes team out of Korea.
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Where the Twins fit into the process doesn’t point toward a great fit. I listed him as an option Friday’s free agent primer, but noted the logjam currently in the corner infield with Joe Mauer, Trevor Plouffe and Miguel Sano. Even if Sano plays outfield for a number of games, adding Park creates more traffic, and almost spells out an impending Plouffe trade. There’s also the possibility the Twins look at him solely as a DH, which might help his transition to the U.S. by allowing him to focus on his best attribute — hitting.
Positioning aside, the Twins are bumping pretty close to their budget ceiling, entering free agency with a $108M payroll. Even if Pohlad opens up the top-end budget, $12.85M just to negotiate a contract with the 29-year-old slugger seems like a misuse of funds.
Scouting Park, from Minnesota’s perspective, could be as simple as due diligence and a bid was never made or considered. Ryan has had good luck with international signings recently, landing top prospect Sano and Max Kepler, who looks like a potential impact bat in the future.
But as we continue to move toward Monday, a number of teams are reportedly out of the running, prompting my curiosity about the Twins’ involvement. Here’s a quick recap of what teams are out, according to the above MLB Trade Rumors link.
- Red Sox
- Blue Jays
Here’s list of the teams without reports on a potential Park bid: the Phillies, Brewers, Reds,
, Twins and
. Of those, the Pirates and Astros are notable teams actively needing a first base bat.
Last year Park batted .343/.436/.714 with 53 home runs in 622 plate appearances, an overall improvement from 2014. That year his triple slash was lower, but he did hit 52 home runs. His strikeouts will be the question at the plate. He’s gone down on strikes nearly 25 percent of the time in the last two seasons. History of the international market also comes into play, as high-priced sluggers from Japan and Korea haven’t always brought the same output they’re being signed under, though fellow Korean Jung-ho Kang had an impressive season last year in Pittsburgh.
In the first base market, Park could command about $8M a year, and his only real competition from an age standpoint is Chris Davis. Otherwise the free agent market at first base is filled with longtime veterans. Of note, if the new team fails to land Park in the 30-day window, the posting fee isn’t paid out.
I’ll personally be surprised if the winning bidder isn’t the Astros, as Park fits their lineup makeup and will come cheaper than Davis.
Park’s new team may be the best kept secret on the Hot Stove, but should be should revealed Monday when the 30-day negotiating period with Park begins. Nexen announced in October it would post Park, and bids were due Nov. 6.