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Twins sign Byung Ho Park to modest contract; Should the Pirates have gotten involved?

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The Twins have signed Korean first baseman Byung Ho Park to a four-year, $12 million deal that includes a cheap option for 2020. The team paid a $12.85 million posting fee for the right to negotiate with Park, so essentially they're buying four years of Park (with an option for a fifth) for about $25 million.

The scuttlebutt around baseball had been that Jung-Ho Kang's excellent rookie season would raise Park's price, but that appears to have been only modestly true. When I was waving away the possibility of the Pirates signing Park, I assumed he would cost more than this. The Twins paid more for Park's posting fee than the Bucs paid for Kang's, but Park's actual contract is nearly as cheap as Kang's was.

Knowing what we know now, I'm surprised the Pirates (and any number of other teams) didn't bid higher for Park, who would have filled an obvious need for the Bucs. Josh Bell's emergence might eventually have been an issue had the Pirates signed Park, but having two good first basemen is a good problem to have, and the Bucs certainly could have used Park or Bell as trade chips (or used Bell in the outfield in the event of an injury).

And, obviously, it now looks like there's a good chance Park will be dramatically underpaid. Kang, for example, basically justified the Pirates' entire investment in him in his first season; if he sits out all of the next three years, the Kang deal will still have been a good one. If a bit of Park's power translates to U.S. baseball, he could do the same within, say, a year and a half.

So why was Park so cheap? His power numbers in the KBO are ridiculous, just as Kang's were, but there might have been skepticism throughout MLB that Park's strikeout-heavy game wouldn't work as well against a much better pool of pitchers. Park also doesn't have Kang's defensive value. I'd much rather have Kang than Park, based on what I know now.

Park is, however, a top-notch player from the KBO. We still know relatively little about how well KBO players can do in the big leagues, and a lot of the information we do now have is favorable. Park has obvious upside. The 29 MLB organizations who all felt he wasn't worth a $13 million bid know more than I do, but from here, the Pirates not being willing to give up a total of $25 million for four years looks like a missed opportunity.