The Minnesota Twins turned some heads in the baseball world today when it was announced that they outbid the rest of the league to earn negotiating rights with South Korean first baseman Byung Ho Park, posting a winning bid of $12.85 million.
This transaction came as a surprise because of Minnesota’s middle of the pack payroll and their 1st base depth.
The Twins already have six-time All-Star Joe Mauer commanding first base with a $23 million salary set for the 2016 season. He’s also coming off a productive season in which he led the 83-79 Twins in hits, average and on-base percentage. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe and Miguel Sano both bring the ability to play first base on top of their primary positions, and promising German outfield prospect Max Kepler played 36 games at first base while in Double-A last season as well.
Many people have been raising questions regarding Mauer’s status with the team in the wake of Minnesota winning the bid, but his job seems very safe for now. This move does open up possibilities for the team regarding Plouffe, Sano and the designated hitter spot.
The 22-year old Sano, an impressive slugger himself, started just nine games in the field as a rookie in 2015 while being penciled in as the designated hitter 69 times. Sano has been listed among the best prospects in baseball for years, and he showed everybody why this summer when he finished the season with 18 home runs and 52 runs batted in after his July 3rd call-up.
Manager Paul Molitor wants his budding superstar in the field and told reporters that even 40 starts at designated hitter for the Dominican slugger in 2016 would be on the high-end for him.
With the team so set on getting Sano into the field, a hole at DH suddenly opens for Park – who is a big right-handed power threat who launched 53 home runs while playing with the Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization last season.
Trading Plouffe is now a real possibility for the Twins. It would open up an everyday spot in the field for Sano and could net Minnesota a solid return. The 29-year old has been a top five run producing third baseman – league wide – in each of the past two seasons and is finally coming around with the glove as well. After leading all American League third baseman in errors in 2012, he has steadily improved each season and was second at his position in fielding percentage this past year.
But Minnesota is still trying to leave all doors open despite a log jam at the corner infield spots. While there has been talk of trading Plouffe ever since Sano made his Major League debut, the team will have Sano experiment with the outfield in the Dominican Winter League. Although it’s hard to see the hulking 6’4” 260 pound Sano having much success as an outfielder, it’s worth testing over the winter league games. Successfully creating a lineup that features Mauer, Plouffe, Park and Sano sounds threatening enough. Then you throw in All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier and fellow elite prospect Byron Buxton to the mix and suddenly the team’s future looks very bright.