Could next year be the first time we see a baseball hit out of Target Field’s boundary?
Going into the off-season, we all thought the Twins’ goal would be to go after relief pitching to bolster the bullpen. Instead, GM Terry Ryan decided to sign a slugger to add to the batting order, which already includes Miguel Sano (18 home runs in 80 games last year). This signing signifies that the Twins are trying to keep up with Kansas City and are not afraid to again sign overseas.
The Twins submitted the winning bid of nearly $13 million to negotiate a contract with Byung Ho Park, a bona fide Korean DH and first baseman. The club had a 30-day period to get a deal done; after nearly 3 weeks, the announcement was made. Park flew to Minneapolis and two days later, on December 1, the Twins signed the 29-year-old to a four-year deal worth $12 million. The deal includes an option in which the Twins can keep him for a fifth year. Considering Park’s potential talent, this deal is overwhelmingly good for the Twins because if Park doesn’t rack up the numbers the way he did in Korea, they are not overspending on him.
Speaking of numbers, Park’s statistics in Korea are astonishing. Park played nine seasons in South Korea, including five with the Nexen Heroes, based in Seoul. His career started slow having played less than 100 games five seasons in a row. In 2011, Park got traded from the LG Twins to Nexen and his statistics exploded: In his first year with Nexen, Park belted 12 home runs and racked up 28 RBIs in 51 games. The following years for Park were equally explosive. He has hit 30+ homers and 95+ RBIs in the last four years.
During his last two years in Seoul, Park has hit 105 home runs with 270 RBIs, averaging .323. Like every power hitter, Park strikes out a lot, 303 times in those two years. Park has also racked up numerous awards overseas; including two MVP awards, three Gold Gloves, four home run titles, and four RBI titles. Like with Sano, we will take the strikeouts with Park’s talents.
At Park’s introductory press conference Wednesday morning, Ryan said the Twins are keeping Trevor Plouffe at third, Joe Mauer at first, and moving Sano to the outfield. Park will be the Twins primary DH, although he will show off why he earned three Gold Gloves when Mauer gets days off. Although hitting balls is harder in MLB than in Korea, the Twins are confident that Park will make a seamless transition to the states. Park, who the Twins have been scouting for more than 10 years, is expected to be in the 2016 opening day line-up.
In my opinion, I have doubts on how productive Sano will be roaming the outfield due to his powerful stature. I am afraid he will be slow and not able to run down balls. I think the Twins should keep Sano at third base, trade Plouffe, and move Mauer to the outfield. Kennys Vargas and Park would then split duties at first base and DH. The Twins should trade Plouffe now to get maximum in return, just like when they traded Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy in November.
“Baseball is baseball,” Park said during his recent press conference. He says he is ecstatic to play in the United States, having come here for Nexen’s spring training for a couple years. Minnie and Paul better watch out this year because a ball might be coming their way in 2016! To watch Park’s hitting skills, click here.
Written by: Michael L. Sack