MINNEAPOLIS -- In a surprise move given their depth at first base, the Twins placed the winning bid to negotiate a contract with Korean slugger Byung Ho Park, it was announced by the Twins and Major League Baseball on Monday. Minnesota has 30 days to come to terms with the first baseman.
Park hit .343/.436/.714 with 53 home runs and 146 RBIs in 140 games for the Korea Baseball Organization's Nexen Heroes this year. The winning bid for the 29-year-old reportedly came in at $12.85 million.
If Park and the winning team do not agree on a contract, Nexen will not receive the posting fee. The Pirates paid Nexen for the rights to negotiate a deal with infielder Jung Ho Kang last year, and the two sides agreed to a four-year, $11 million deal. Kang saw immediate success in the Majors as a rookie in 2015, hitting .287 with 15 homers and 58 RBIs in 126 games before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in September.
Park has played in the KBO for the past 10 years, debuting with a 79-game rookie season in 2005. He has emerged as a standout player in the past four seasons, hitting a combined 105 homers in the past two and driving in at least 100 runs in each of the past four. Park's biggest issue is his propensity to swing and miss, as he struck out 161 times in 528 at-bats in '15.
Aside from acknowledging that they won the bidding, the Twins said they would not comment further out of respect for Nexen and Park.
Park gives the Twins a much-needed right-handed power bat, but they already have Joe Mauer at first base and young slugger Miguel Sano was the club's primary designated hitter in the second half of the season. Sano remains blocked at third base by Trevor Plouffe, but the Twins could decide to trade Plouffe or move Sano to the outfield in the short-term. Sano is expected to see some time in left field in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, as the Twins are trying to experiment with him to see if he has the versatility to handle the outfield.
It's also the second time the Twins have won the bidding for an international player, as they won the bidding for Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka for $3.5 million prior to the 2011 season. Minnesota signed Nishioka to a three-year deal worth $9.25 million. Nishioka, though, struggled in his parts of two seasons in the Majors and walked away from the last year of his contract to return to Japan.