Twins designated hitter Byung Ho Park will undergo season-ending surgery on his right wrist, the team announced to reporters, including MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter link). The operation will repair a subluxation of the tendon on the back of Park’s right hand, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Park, 30, signed a four-year, $12MM contract with the Twins this offseason after Minnesota secured the rights to negotiate with him by submitting a blind bid of $12.85MM. The former KBO superstar looked to be a shrewd pickup through the first six weeks of the season, but his production quickly went into the tank. Park would ultimately be demoted to Triple-A, where it was revealed that he’d been playing through a wrist ailment. While he didn’t want to cite the injury as the source of his big league struggles, it does seem as though the balky wrist may have impacted his performance; Park batted a very strong .257/.342/.581 with nine homers through his first 120 plate appearances with the Twins but followed that up with a dismal .127/.210/.245 over his next 124 PAs. Most telling of all, perhaps, is the fact that Park punched out in 47 percent of his plate appearances over his final dozen games before being sent down. Park fared better with the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate but still struggled, hitting .224/.297/.526 with 10 homers in 31 games with Rochester.
While Park’s first season didn’t go as the team had hoped, the fact that he was able to slug 22 homers in a combined 93 games between Minnesota and Rochester suggests that the power that made him such a desirable free agent could eventually play at the Major League level. He’ll take the offseason to rehab the wrist and look to work his way back onto the big league roster next season, though the Twins have a glut of corner options that muddies the exact alignment for the 2017 campaign.
Joe Mauer is entrenched at first base/designated hitter and won’t be going anywhere thanks to a $23MM annual salary and a full no-trade clause. And while there’s a common refrain suggesting that Mauer get back behind the plate, the personal dangers of him doing so in the wake of concussion issues that lingered for years beyond his move to first base make that an unrealistic and decidedly unsafe course of action that won’t be considered. Miguel Sano’s brief trial in right field yielded poor results, so he’ll be in the picture back over at third base and designated hitter. The Twins also still have Trevor Plouffe as an alternative at third base, with Jorge Polanco and Eduardo Escobar both serving as options to see time at shortstop and also at the hot corner. Max Kepler’s emergence and a resurgent Eddie Rosario make it unlikely that any of Plouffe, Polanco or Escobar would move to a corner outfield spot. Switch-hitting slugger Kennys Vargas, too, adds to the Twins’ options as a potential DH.
The Twins were faced with a similar crunch last winter and elected to hang onto all of their corner options, prompting the ill-fated Sano-to-right-field attempt. Some form of offseason move to create roster flexibility seems possible, if not likely, especially considering the fact that the Twins are widely expected to hire a new general manager from outside the organization following Terry Ryan’s dismissal.