November 15, 2015

Twins win right to negotiate contract with Korean slugger; team trades Aaron Hicks and Chris Herrmann

Hang on: Joe Mauer plays first base for the Twins.

That was my immediate reaction after learning the Twins had won the rights to negotiate a contract with first baseman Byung Ho Park, a veteran ballplayer for the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization.

The winning bid was apparently close to $13 million, according to MLB.com. The Twins now have 30 days to strike a deal with Park.

Bidding for Park might be a head-scratcher for the Twins after the Tsuyoshi Nishioka experiment failed so spectacularly, but take a look at the gaudy numbers Park produced in 2015: a .343 batting average, 53 home runs and he drove in 146 runs — all of which was accomplished in 140 games.

Impressive. But — if he actually becomes a member of the Twins — how will his ability to crush South Korean pitching actually translate to hitting Major League pitching? That’s an unknown, of course, but the Twins’ interest in Park is a reminder that Mauer of late no longer hits with much power.

Mauer, who currently earns $23 million per season, is without a doubt an accomplished hitter. He has a lifetime batting average of .313. He also is a three-time AL batting champion and the 2009 AL MVP. That year he hit .365, 28 home runs and drove in just shy of 100 runs. But in the past two seasons he has hit no better than .277 with 14 home runs.

Mauer isn’t going anywhere. He is Minnesota born and bred and I expect he will end his career with the Twins. Still, the idea of Mauer hitting in front of Miguel Sano and possibly Park in the lineup, might make sense for the Twins.

In other news…

The Twins recently traded two players, including a once touted prospect to the New York Yankees.

That player was outfielder Aaron Hicks, the Twins 14th pick in the 2008 amateur draft. Hicks’ speed, defense and throwing arm were never in question, but his hitting never materialized. In three seasons, he hit .225 with 20 home runs.

I would like to thank the Twins organization for making me into the player I am today. Truly blessed to grow up in the organization.

— Aaron Hicks (@AaronHicks31) November 11, 2015

In exchange for Hicks, the Twins received catcher John Ryan Murphy from the Yankees. Murphy, who hit .277 in 67 games, will share catching duties with Kurt Suzuki.

“We think he’s going to hit,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said of Murphy to MLB.com. “He’s got some power and he has a strong arm behind the plate. He has all the skills and traits to potentially be a starting Major League catcher. It was a priority of ours to upgrade our catching situation. Kurt played so much last year, I think he wore down.”

Murphy, meanwhile, is a strong addition for the #Twins, who had been looking for a young catcher.

— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 11, 2015

Suzuki, who hit around .300 for most of the 2014 season — his first with the Twins — slumped to a .240 batting average this past season. He also appeared in 131 games the past two seasons.

With Suzuki and Murphy in the house, the Twins sent backup catcher Chris Herrmann to the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league outfielder Daniel Palka.

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.