FEB. 8: Park has been placed on waivers, per Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (on Twitter), so he won’t be traded.
FEB. 3, 1:17pm: La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweets that the expectation is that Park will clear waivers due to the remaining salary on his contract and report to Spring Training as a non-roster invite. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes that there’s no plan from Park’s camp to return to Korea.
11:11am: In a fairly surprising move, the Twins announced that they’ve designated first baseman Byung Ho Park for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for right-hander Matt Belisle, whose one-year deal with the team is now official.
Park’s DFA comes just one year into a four-year, $12MM contract signed with Minnesota last winter (which came on top of a $12.85MM posting fee paid by the Twins to acquire negotiation rights with the former KBO slugger). He’s still guaranteed $9.25MM over the life of the next three seasons, so there’s a good chance that Park will clear waivers if the Twins go that route. At that point, he’s be able to work on his swing in Triple-A and potentially return at some point in 2017.
The 30-year-old Park arrived in Minnesota with lofty expectations after blasting a combined 105 home runs in his final two KBO seasons. While Park’s power was as advertised — he homered 12 times and posted a .219 ISO in 244 plate appearances — strikeouts also proved to be a problem, as he punched out in 32.8 percent of his plate appearances.
Overall, Park posted a disappointing .191/.275/.409 batting line with the Twins, although it’s certainly worth noting that he ultimately proved to have a wrist injury that required surgical repair. And, Park did bat .257/.339/.578 with nine homers through his first 124 plate appearances in Minnesota (albeit with 38 strikeouts) in addition to showing well in a number of Statcast categories, including exit velocity and barreled balls (as recently examined by Fangraphs’ Travis Sawchik).
The Twins could also explore trade scenarios involving Park. While he’s unlikely to carry significant value given his poor debut season, a team looking to acquire a right-handed bat at first base/DH could consider Park a reasonable roll of the dice. He’s controlled for three years at what figures to be a comparable price to the one Mike Napoli will command in free agency, so there’s certainly a degree of financial upside present, as one can only assume that the cost of acquisition would be low at this juncture.
Further expounding upon that point, the Twins themselves have been a rumored landing spot for Napoli in recent weeks, and jettisoning Park from the 40-man roster creates one potential avenue of adding a more veteran right-handed bat to the picture in Minnesota.