Minnesota Twins Offseason Weekly Reaction: Byung-ho Park and John Ryan Murphy
Writers Note: A weekly review of the Minnesota Twins offseason transactions, including reaction and opinions from fans and myself. Look for future polls on my Twitter account to share your opinions.
This week Terry Ryan started the offseason fast and furious. He made numerous transactions, more than some would expect from him.
On Monday, the mystery team with the winning bid for negotiating rights with Byung-ho Park was revealed as the Minnesota Twins. Ryan did not stop there. He worked out a couple of other trades. On Tuesday, Chris Herrmann was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder/first baseman Daniel Palka.
But the trade that grabbed a lot of attention happened on Wednesday. Aaron Hicks was traded to the New York Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy. The move had mixed reactions.
A lot of people brought up Hicks’s potential. He took a step forward last season. After batting a combined .201 in his first two seasons, he batted .256 in 97 games. He continued to run down fly balls in the outfield gaps and showed off his strong-arm. However, I believe he is a AAAA player. He is not good enough to be an everyday player in the majors but too good for triple-A.
I agree with the results of the poll. Murphy has the skills to be an everyday catcher at the major league level. He has just as much potential as Hicks and has established himself as an above-average defensive catcher.
Murphy not only fields well, he handles the pitching staff well. Increased playing time over the last three years suggests he is ready to become an everyday player. He should develop a good relationship with Twins pitchers as he did in New York.
His fielding (.994) and caught stealing percentage (28%) are league average. Small sample sizes might be the case for a lot of other stats regarding his fielding in the majors. Including the minors, Murphy has a caught 29% of runners and has a .988 fielding percentage. He is also known as a catcher who frames pitches very well. Adding strikes for hit pitchers is something Kurt Suzuki has done poorly in during his time with the Twins.
Fielding aside, he is better at the plate than Suzuki. He slashed .277/.327/.406 last season in 172 plate appearances. His career line drive rate of 26% and 66% balls hit in-play are the most promising. Both are higher than Hicks’s 22% LD% and 64% IP%.
Last season Hicks finally performed well enough that Twins fans felt he was reaching his career potential. His is improving but it will depend on Joe Girardi. Under Ron Gardenhire, Hicks was awful. Under Paul Molitor‘s leadership, he was noticeably better.
Hicks looks like the kind of player that needs a manager to treat him in a specific manner for him to succeed. That is where Girardi comes in to play. Will Hicks succeed in New York? If Girardi plays Hicks in the right spots, he will be a good corner outfielder for the Yankees.
Where Byung-ho Park Fits In
The Twins made the highest bid on Park and have less than a month to reach a contract agreement.
The support for Park is not as substantial as it is for Murphy. Nevertheless, I agree with the results. Park’s power numbers in the Korean Baseball Organization are overwhelming. He hit over 50 home runs in each of the last two seasons. Will he reach those totals against MLB pitching? I don’t believe he will. However, the plan to have him DH is a good one.
The KBO has inflated batting statistics. It has turned into a league off bat flips and seeing how far the batter can crush the ball. Recent KBO transfer Jung Ho Kang is easily comparable.
Park’s strikeout rate during the last two seasons is 25.3%, and his walk rate in the same span is 14.5%. Kang’s rates are nearly identical. In his last two seasons in the KBO (2013-2014), Kang had a 20.8% strikeout rate and a 13.1% walk rate. When his first season in the majors ended prematurely, he had a 21.1% SO% and a 5.9% BB%. His BB% dropped 7.2 percent. Yikes. That is drastic.
The point about Kang is that I would expect a similar drop in Park’s BB%. His SO% and BB%, if he follows Kang’s trend, would be around 25.6% and 7.3% respectfully. Those rates are not Chris Carter extremes, like some have predicted, but they would more closely resemble someone like Mark Trumbo or Ian Desmond. I also suspect Park’s home run rate would drop. His home run total would be in the range of 20 with the potential to reach 25.
I am perfectly fine with the Twins looking outside the U.S. to find a player who has good power and strikes out at a rate barely above league average. For those that disagree, it is simple. Do not compare Park to Tsuyoshi Nishioka. They are two different kinds of players and play in different leagues. There is and should be no comparison made between the two until Park plays in majors.
After Effects of Chris Herrmann Trade
The day before Hicks was sent to the Big Apple, Herrmann was traded to the Arizona. At the time, it did not draw a lot of attention. The deal explained itself the following day in the Murphy trade. Herrmann was the favorite to back up Suzuki. Eric Fryer was a minor league free agent at the time of the Herrmann trade. Fryer has signed a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals since then.
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Palka, 24, has not played higher than the single-A level. It is shocking that the Twins got a player of decent value in return.
I like the return for Herrmann. However I do not see Palka making an impact to the Twins active roster anytime soon. Frankly, he might not be called up in the next few years. Though, he could be a player to watch his progression during the upcoming season.