Park Bang? Park Pffft…
Minnesota Twins DFA Byung Ho Park in Surprise Move.
After yesterday’s free agent signing of reliever Matt Belisle, the Twins needed to make room on their 40-man roster.
But this? No one saw this coming. Did they?
Only three players didn’t make it to TwinsFest last weekend. Park’s absence was thought to have been a courtesy, given the distance he would have needed to travel.
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Obviously, the Minnesota’s front office knew otherwise. Any free agent signing would have precipitated Park’s designation for assignment.
So why would they have him come to the U.S. – especially if they had executed a signing over the weekend of TwinsFest?
That would have been the ultimate embarrassment to Park, so it makes perfect sense they didn’t ask him to the biggest off-season event the club holds.
Now, last season’s biggest acquisition can be claimed by any team during the waiver period. Remember, under the new collective bargaining agreement, the waiver period was extend from seven days to the new ten.
If he goes unclaimed, the Twins do maintain control over Park, still able to send him to AAA Rochester to work on pitch recognition – the biggest flaw in his game. They can also release him. But then they would be stuck paying the remainder of his 4 year/$12 million contract ($9.75 M).
While Park did go Bang! 12 times in just 62 games last year before being demoted, he also struck out 80 times, versus only 21 walks. As the season entered its second month, Park appeared to be over-matched, and not just by big league breaking balls.
He also had problems catching up to high-90s fastballs, a pitch he wasn’t used to seeing in the KBO, where most pitchers throw in the lower 90’s to high 80’s. While he batted only .191 in his 215 at-bats, he was in the top three on the Twins in homers and RBI before being sent down.
Other young players have struggled similarly, most notably Byron Buxton, who hit for nearly the same average as Park until a very late-season push. He also struck out at the same rate as Park.
The one position player who seemed to be the odds-on favorite to be taken off the 40-man roster was Danny Santana. He too, has had his troubles at the plate – hitting just .215 in 91 games two seasons ago.
But Santana’s versatility appears to have won out over someone who plays a position that’s jammed with way more players than opportunities – 1B/DH. If Park is plucked by another team, a trade gets worked out, or the Twins just let him go – they do have a potential replacement for Park next season.
Daniel Palka wasn’t expected to be quite the power hitter he has become (34 HR between AA/AAA) when the Twins ponied up $12.85 million just to post for the rights to negotiate with Byung Ho in December of 2015.
Then, Minnesota was looking past the era of Joe Mauer for the next first baseman, and Park appeared to fit the bill.
He has proven to be a slick fielder, and a great teammate in the clubhouse. It’s only been his struggles with striking out that has the Twins possibly looking elsewhere.
Either way, the remaining $9.75 million on his salary is owed, either by Minnesota or by whomever claims him. If he does go unclaimed, it’s expected that he will be invited to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee to work on his swing.
If he has a great March, the Twins can always make additional cuts to make room once again for him. If he needs more work, then can elect to send him to AAA.
Given the amount due left on his contract, his age (30), and the fact that he had season-ending wrist surgery last Summer – it’s a good bet that Park stays with the Twins.
Next: Twins Sign Reliever Matt Belisle
Notes: Only a couple weeks until pitchers & catchers report, be sure to read our upcoming series on the Top 10 Twins Prospects – starting next week.