TODAY: Park says he does not “have any regrets” despite heading home with some “disappointment” after two years in affiliated ball, according to a report from Lee Hyeong-Seok and Kim Hyo-Kyung of Korea JoongAng Daily (h/t Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net). The article seemingly suggests that Park will walk away from the remainder of his guaranteed money from the Twins, preferring to give up some earnings in order to make it back to the KBO, though it’s also still possible that the interested parties are hammering out the financial details.
YESTERDAY, 10:28pm: The details of Park’s return (such as his walking away from the remainder of his MLB contract) haven’t yet been finalized between the Heroes, the KBO and the Twins, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. “It will be a while before it is all worked out,” a source with knowledge of the situation tells Berardino, though the Twins are expected to ultimately release Park.
10:02pm: Park will forfeit the remaining $6.5MM on his Twins contract in order to facilitate the move to KBO, as per a Naver Sports report (hat tip to Sung Min Kim of the River Ave Blues blog).
8:57pm: The Nexen Heroes of the KBO League have signed first baseman Byung-Ho Park to a one-year deal, Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News reports (Twitter links). Park will earn $1.4MM (or 1.5 billion South Korean won) in the contract.
According to Yoo, the Twins accommodated Park’s request to release him from the remaining two years on his original four-year, $12MM contract with the club in order for Park to return to his home country. Unless some type of arrangement was worked out between the Twins and the Heroes, Minnesota is on the hook for all of the remaining $6.5MM on Park’s MLB contract — $3MM in each of the 2018 and 2019 seasons, plus a $500K buyout of a $6.5MM club option for 2020.
The transaction officially ends a disappointing tenure for Park in Major League Baseball. The Twins paid $12.85MM to win negotiating rights with Park in December 2015 and then guaranteed him another $12MM with that four-year deal. The result was a .191/.275/.409 slash line with 12 homers over 244 plate appearances in 2016, as Park had trouble making contact (80 strikeouts) and also battled a wrist injury that eventually required surgery. Minnesota outrighted him off their 40-man roster last February and Park never again reached the bigs, hitting .253/.308/.415 over 455 PA at the Triple-A level last season.
Park was reportedly still in the Twins’ plans for 2018, as he was even preparing to spend much of the offseason training at the team’s facilities. Still, Park was signed before the Derek Falvey/Thad Levine regime took over in Minnesota, so it could be that the new front office just wanted to part ways with a player that no longer seemed to fit on the 25-man roster. Joe Mauer is still entrenched at first base, and while the DH slot is currently slated to be filled by the uninspiring duo of Robbie Grossman and Kennys Vargas, the Twins are interested in Shohei Ohtani and are surely open to using the two-way star as a designated hitter when he isn’t on the mound. Even if Ohtani can’t be signed, Miguel Sano may also be a candidate for more DH time as the slugger recovers from leg surgery.
Park now returns to the KBO League, where he posted superstar numbers over parts of nine seasons from 2005-15 (including four-plus years with Nexen Heroes). Park hit .281/.387/.564 with 210 homers over 3271 PA in South Korea, an impressive enough showing to catch the eye of the Twins and other teams in the 2015-16 offseason when Park expressed interest in coming to North America.