The Twins’ first potential addition of the offseason plays a surprising position: first base.
Byung-ho Park, a first baseman for the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization, will join the Twins if they can work out a contract in the next 30 days, the team was informed on Monday. The Twins were the highest bidder for the rights to Park, and their bid, reported to be $12.85 million by espn.com, was accepted today by Nexen.
Park is a 29-year-old right-handed slugger who has hit 105 home runs over the past two seasons in South Korea, but he’s also a first baseman, a position currently manned by Joe Mauer, who has three seasons remaining on his eight-year contract. It’s not known what the Twins have planned for Park should they settle on a contract for him, but the prospect of adding a veteran power hitter was too tempting to resist.
Park has blossomed into a star over the past four seasons with Nexen, batting .290 or higher in all four seasons and driving in at least 96 runs. He batted .343 with 53 home runs and 146 RBIs in 2015, with a .343 on-base percentage. He also struck out 161 times in 140 games.
It’s the second venture into the Asian market for Minnesota, who won the bidding for Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka in late 2010. That experience didn’t go well — Nishioka played only 71 games over two seasons, batting .215 with no home runs, before deciding to return to Japan.
Under international rules, when Asian players under contract in other countries declare their intention to play in the major leagues, teams make undisclosed bids for the players, and their team accepts the high bid. Upon acceptance, the high bidder has 30 days to reach a contract agreement; if unsuccessful, the player remains with his original team.
Korean players have become increasingly common in the major leagues over the past two decades, with Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, a 10-year MLB veteran, the best-known current player. Choo didn’t go through the posting system, however; he was signed as an amateur when he was 18.
Dodgers righthander Hyun-jin Ryu and Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang came to the U.S. via the posting system, and each has established himself as a valuable regular. Ryu won 14 games in 2013 and 2014 before missing 2015 after shoulder surgery, while Kang debuted with 15 home runs and a .287 average for Pittsburgh this season.