The Samsung Lions of the KBO League are closing in on a deal with outfielder Daniel Palka, according to DKTV’s Daniel Kim (Twitter link). The White Sox still control Palka’s rights, though since he was outrighted off their 40-man roster last November and wasn’t included on the team’s 60-man player pool this month, Palka doesn’t appear to be in Chicago’s future plans.
Palka burst into the majors in 2018 and finished fifth in AL Rookie Of The Year balloting on the strength of his 27 homers in 449 plate appearances, though his overall batting line (.240/.294/.484) didn’t hint at much beyond raw power. A brutal start to the 2019 season led to a pretty quick demotion to the minors for Palka, and he didn’t receive much more extended playing time until September, finishing with an ugly .372 OPS over 93 PA for the season.
There’s a lot of swing-and-miss in Palka’s game, as he struck out 188 times over his 542 Major League plate appearances, though he has shown considerable more promise at the plate during his minor league career. Over 2287 PA in the farm systems of the Diamondbacks, Twins, and White Sox, Palka hit .269/.349/.500 with 136 homers. A move to South Korea and the hitter-friendly KBO League could be just what Palka needs to get his career back on track and perhaps improve his stock for a future contract with a North American club.
Palka would be taking the roster spot left open by another former big leaguer in Tyler Saladino, who is out of action with a back injury. Kim notes that Saladino has been sidelined since July 14, and the fact that the Lions are already lining up a replacement would seem to indicate that the injury could be serious. Performance-wise, Saladino has an impressive .280/.411/.477 slash line through 163 PA in his first KBO season.
Saladino signed with the Lions last winter, coming on the heels of 326 MLB games with the White Sox and Brewers from 2015-19. By coincidence, Saladino and Palka were both members of the 2018 White Sox, though Saladino was already off to Milwaukee before Palka made his big league debut.