Last year the Pirates made some history when they signed SS/3B Jung-ho Kang to a 4 year $11 million contract. Korean players have not had much success in the major leagues although there haven't been many examples to begin with. Pittsburgh was rewarded for it's boldness when Kang hit 287/355/461 with 15 home runs. That was good for a 130 wRC+ and 3.9 fWAR. He didn't even begin the season playing full time. Suffice it to say MLB teams are now going to be more willing to sign Korean players.
Here's where Byung-ho Park comes in. He's the right-handed hitting first baseman for the Nexen Heroes and MLB Trade Rumors is reporting they will be posting him on Monday. Korea operates under the old posting rules so they're different from Japan now. Teams will enter a blind bid--no limit to that bid--and the highest bidder will get sole rights to negotiate a contract with Park.
Assuming they come to an agreement the posting fee goes to the Nexen Heroes while Park only gets whatever he signs for. If no agreement is reached Park has to stay in Korea and the posting fee is refunded to the major league club. The system works against the player as he's essentially punished for not taking a deal and that gives a lot of leverage to the major league club--and he only gets to talk to that one club.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, Park will be posted Monday November 2. The bidding will stay open until Friday November 6. If the Nexen Heroes accept the posting bid--which gets announced Monday November 9--then the MLB team that won the rights will be allowed to negotiate with Park for 30 days.
As stated above Jung-ho Kang received a 4 year deal worth $11 million. His posting fee was for $5 million. The Pirates essentially got their money back in year one. So the question is how much could Byung-ho Park expect to get. The answer is tricky and I'll save you some trouble: I don't know.
Both were strong offensive players in Korea. But I think it's clear in their last 3 seasons in the KBO, Park was the better of the two.
|Season||Jung-Ho Kang||Byung-ho Park|
|Third to Last||519 PA, 314/513/560, 71 BB, 78 SO, 25 HR||556 PA, 318/437/602, 92 BB, 96 SO, 37 HR|
|Second to Last||532 PA, 291/387/489, 68 BB, 109 SO, 22 HR||571 PA, 303/433/686, 96 BB, 142 SO, 52 HR|
|Last Season in KBO||501 PA, 356/459/739, 68 BB, 106 SO, 40 HR||622 PA, 343/436/714, 78 BB, 161 SO, 53 HR|
As you can see while Jung-ho Kang was pretty good in his final three seasons with the Nexen Heroes, Byung-ho Park was absolutely absurd. There will be concern over his strike out numbers though. Even I have to admit 142 and 161 strike outs are somewhat troubling. That translates to a 24.9 K% and 25.9 K%. However his walk rates were also strong those two seasons: 16.8 BB% and 12.5 BB% respectively.
Another reason it's hard to know where Park stands is his positioning and age. He's going to be two years older than Kang was at the time of his posting. Park is also limited to first base whereas Kang offered the flexibility of playing shortstop and third base. These are two things that work against Park but I think it's still think he'll end up with more than Kang got. Once a player like Kang proves himself it raises the bar financially for those that follow. It's always worked that way.
Even if Park commands double the contract and double the posting fee he could still be a bargain. That would essentially equate to $8 million annual average value. That's less than two wins. If he can get anywhere near replicating his KBO numbers that's a bargain. However it is expensive enough that if he can't translate his numbers the dead weight might be too much for a team like the Brewers to risk.
But remember, just because the Brewers are rebuilding right now doesn't mean they can't, shouldn't, or won't spend money. Assume for sake of argument the Brewers still aren't able to compete while they have control over Park on a hypothetical 4 year $22 million contract. That's an AAV of just $5.5 million. That's less than Gerardo Parra made this year and less than what Francisco Rodriguez will make next year. If Park can play an adequate first base and slug 30 home runs imagine how much he'd command on the trade market.
The Houston Astros have had a lot of success with their cadre of three true outcome players. I don't know how David Stearns actually feels about those types of players, but he must have noticed how effective they can be. I'd be willing to bet he'd be able to look past the strike outs if he felt Park could add something to the Brewers. I think it's an interesting note that one of the things Stearns wanted to do with the Astros was increase their scouting efforts in the foreign markets like Japan and Korea. It's possible he already has some knowledge of Park.
There's no telling just how much Byung-ho Park will command. And there is certainly no way of knowing if the Brewers would even be interested. They'd also have to move Adam Lind--which they might do anyway. Only time will answer these questions. But we do know when that answer should come: December 9th at the latest.
KBO stats courtesy of Baseball Reference