Padres Should Go After Byung-ho Park


I recently argued that the Padres should pursue Korean left fielder Ah-seop Son. Today, Yonhap News reported that the Nexen Heroes are to post first baseman Byung-ho Park. Park will be posted November 2. Nexen will come to a decision on November 6 on whether to accept the posting bid or to reject it and hold onto Park. Padres GM A.J. Preller should make Nexen an offer the club can’t refuse. 

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I should start off by saying that I am not, in fact, being paid by the South Korean government or the Korean Baseball Organization for advertising their players. I also don’t think that just because Jung-ho Kang has worked out in Pittsburgh that every other KBO player will work out. But, at this point they are not being offered contracts on the level that Cuban or Japanese defectors are. Note that players from either of those countries come with their own risks.

Byung-ho Park has been a monster over the past few seasons in the KBO. The 6-foot-1-inch, 194-pound first baseman has hit 30 or more home runs and 100 or more RBI in each of the past four seasons and over 50 home runs and over 120 RBI in the last two. His OPS over the last three seasons has surpasses 1.000. For reference, only four players topped 1.000 in 2015 let alone three seasons in a row. In his 140 games this season, Park’s slashline was .343/.436/.714/1.150. Note that Bryce Harper‘s OPS was 1.109.

Disclaimer: I do not think these numbers will transfer 100-percent over to MLB if Park does, in fact, come to the U.S. But talent is talent. The best in a league in some other country still means quite a lot even if the league is inferior to Major League Baseball. Look no further than the influx of Cuban players who performed as well or nearly as well as they did in their mother country. Not all, but many. The KBO is very hitter friendly. But can 53 home runs in the KBO translate to 30-plus in MLB? Well, if his approach and mechanics are good, then absolutely.

Here is where I invite you to see for yourself if Park has the swing to last in MLB:

Other than a couple pitches where he completely unloads on, Park has a solid compact swing. It is very balanced and doesn’t incorporate any more moving parts than a typical major leaguer. All these are good signs for him translating to MLB.

Park turned 29 in July. Look for him to get no more than, say, a four-year deal.

As said in the Son article, Jung-ho Kang was a KBO MVP who received only a $5 million posting fee and a four-year $11 million contract. Park has been more productive, but should not be much more expensive. However, the first baseman would demand a higher price than left fielder Ah-seop Son.

There would be implications of signing Park. Wil Myers would not really be an option at first base. This isn’t the biggest deal as Myers has most of his playtime in a corner outfielder spot. And many fans wouldn’t be unhappy about Yonder Alonso getting less time. So the biggest implication is that of prospects. Hunter Renfroe, Rymer Liriano, and Alex Dickerson will be without a spot ready for them when they are major league ready. But will they be ready next year? Will they live up to their potential? Could they be better used as trade bait for a better shortstop? Perhaps a prospect shortstop? Who can tell? How many prospects (especially Padre prospects) actually live up to their potential? I am not in favor of trading away a bunch of prospects in favor of the present. But to rely on them is also risky.