NOVEMBER 3: Nexen indeed posted Park yesterday, as expected, Jee-ho Yoo of Yonhap reports. As explained further below, bids are due this Friday.
By timing the move as they did, Nexen has moved Park up into the front of the free agent period. By comparison, the Kang posting and signing process took place in late December. While that strategy may carry some risk, as teams pursuing significant free agents may prefer not to be bound, it could reflect a hope or expectation that MLB teams will view Park as a major addition around whom their offseason plans could be structured.
OCTOBER 28: The Nexen Heroes have announced that they will post first baseman Byung-ho Park on Monday, November 2nd, as So-jung Park of the Yonhap News Agency reports (hat tip to Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net).
The Korean star is a former teammate of Pirates infielder Jung-ho Kang. Both put up gaudy numbers in the hitter-friendly KBO, but Park has actually been a more consistently stratospheric offensive performer.
In each of the last three seasons, the 29-year-old has registered a 1.000+ OPS. And he’s continued to improve: last season, Park posted career-best numbers in each of the triple-slash categories (.343/.436/.714) and blasted 53 home runs in 622 plate appearances (one year after swatting 52 long balls). There will be questions asked of his strikeouts, though, as Park went down on strikes in about a quarter of his plate appearances in each of the last two seasons.
Park will now test his earning power through the traditional posting system that still governs the flow of players from the KBO to the majors. (A modified set of rules now applies to Japan’s NPB, where there is a $20MM cap on posting fees and the potential for multiple MLB clubs to negotiate with a player.) Major league organizations will participate in a blind bidding process in which the high bidder earns exclusive negotiating rights.
By posting Park on Monday, the bidding window will stay open until 5pm EST on Friday, November 6th. Then, Nexen says, the club will determine whether to take the top offer and announce its decision on Monday, November 9th. At that point, assuming the KBO club moves forward, the winning MLB team will have thirty days to reach agreement with Park (with the posting fee refunded if it cannot).
It’s always tough to predict the international market, but Kang’s huge year in Pittsburgh certainly seems likely to have elevated perceptions of Park’s ability to transition to the majors. (Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune explores that idea in more depth in an interesting piece.) To be fair, players like Eric Thames can look like Barry Bonds playing in Korea — he’s fresh off of a .381/.497/.790, 47 home run campaign — but that doesn’t mean the numbers are without any value. Acquired for just a $5MM posting fee and a four-year, $11MM contract, Kang proved an excellent value after moving to North America. While he obviously didn’t match his monster KBO stat line, he adapted quite well to the majors and put up an excellent .287/.355/.461 batting line.
Park will, of course, have quite a different market. Scouts will have opinions on how his bat will translate, and it will obviously matter that he appears to be limited to first base. But plenty of teams will be intrigued at the possibility of adding a reasonably youthful power hitter at a relatively affordable price. There will be several veteran first basemen available in free agency, but the only premier, younger talent on this year’s market is Chris Davis, who MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicts to land a six-year, $144MM contract.