Twins Sign Korean First Baseman Byung-Ho Park

Renee Jones Schneider/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

The Minnesota Twins have just agreed to a four-year, $12 million deal with Byung-Ho Park, a 28-year-old first baseman who has played for nearly a decade in his native Korea.

As recently as this time last season, no position player had ever directly transitioned from the KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) to the Major Leagues. Last winter, the Pittsburgh Pirates broke the mold by agreeing to a four-year, $11 million deal with shortstop Jung-Ho Kang. After a slow start to the season, Kang became an essential part of the Pirates’ playoff push, ending the year with a .287/.355/.461 slash line and finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting. Kang’s considerable success in translating his game from Korean to American competition could have been a strong influence in the Twins’ decision to pursue Park.

MLB Trade Rumors notes that the Twins might plan to have Park alternate between first base and designated hitter alongside longtime Twin Joe Mauer. In recent years, Mauer has significantly under-performed his $23 million-annually contract, ending last season with a .265/.338/.360 slash line, and missing at least 40 games in three of the last five seasons. The Twins were one of seven teams to receive below-replacement-level production from their first basemen last season.

Park already has a jump start at being a fan favorite: his majestic signature bat-flips have made him perhaps the most widely recognizable Korean ballplayer for American audiences.

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