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The Rays Should Claim Byung-Ho Park

Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Rays have just re-signed Logan Morrison, thus filling first base without getting a right handed bat, but a promising right handed bat has just become available, and the Rays should pick him up immediately.

The Twins have designated Byung-Ho Park for assignment, and he’s the other half of the first base platoon that the Rays need.

The Rays could pick Park up for nothing, outside of his remaining contract. He is owed $9.25MM in guaranteed money. In 2017 he is owed $2.75MM, $3MM each in 2018 and 2019, and then comes with a team option for 2020 at $6.5MM with a $500k buyout.

2016 started off great for Byung-Ho Park as he hit .257/.342/.581 and 142 wRC+ over his first 120 plate appearances that included nine home runs. However the next six weeks weren’t as kind as he hit .127/.210/.245 and 19 wRC+ with three home runs over 124 plate appearances.

Park was then demoted to AAA and hit .224/.296/.526 and 135 wRC+ with ten home runs over 128 plate appearances. In August, his year ended with season-ending wrist surgery, which was so unfortunate given how well he was barreling the ball.

The power is undeniable, as his .219 ISO in the majors and .309 ISO in AAA show. Park strikes out. In the majors he struck out 32.8% of plate appearances and in AAA it only lowered to 25.0%, but that’s something the Rays are comfortable with.

Yesterday Fangraphs ran an article called “Don’t Quit on Byung Ho Park”, which is well worth your time.

Park gets the ball airborne when he does make contact as he had a 42.0% fly ball rate and 20.7% of those turned into home runs. His 43 fly balls had an average exit velocity of an absurd 97.7 MPH and flew an average distance of 359 feet.

Steamer projects him to hit .235/.311/.451 and 101 wRC+. ZiPS projects him to hit .251/.321/.463 and 113 OPS+. Either is not far off of what you would expect out of Chris Carter. Carter has the track record against MLB pitching while Park had mixed results in his first run through the MLB after a successful career in the Korean Baseball Organization.

Last year the Twins paid a $12.85MM posting fee and guaranteed Park $12MM. Now the Rays have a shot at him for 3/$9.25MM.

The move would be higher variance than signing Carter or Mike Napoli, but there’s also upside when it works out as $3MM a year for the next two years, which would be a steal even in a market where power isn’t getting paid what it used to.