On Monday, it was announced that the Oakland Athletics, despite their competitive bid for Korean first baseman Byung-Ho Park, would not have the opportunity to negotiate a Major League contract with the right-handed slugger who posted a .343 batting average with 53 home runs and 146 RBI for the Nexen Heroes in the Korean Baseball Organization in 2015.
Instead, the Minnesota Twins were victorious with their $12.85 million submission and have approximately 30 days to come to an agreement with the 29-year-old, otherwise the Nexen ball club will not be awarded the posting fee — according to Twins beat-writer Rhett Bollinger .
At the end of the day, it was interesting enough to hear that the Athletics were deemed “runner-up” for Park, as reported first by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports .
However, what does this mean for the Oakland organization building for the future?
Where does Park fit in?
Last offseason, Billy Beane signed Billy Butler to a three-year, $30 million contract — thus bridging the gap until the arrival of Matt Olson or Rangel Ravelo and ultimately a young core of Athletics destined to be something special for many years to come. Instead of sticking to the plan, Beane decided to take a flyer on the right-handed slugger, who in some cases, shares similar characteristics to that of Butler.
Both are established power hitters in their respective leagues, strike out quite bit and aren’t known for taking too many free passes. Aside from their six-foot-one frames, what’s intriguing to say the least is that they both bat right-handed. For an organization known for it’s financial constraints and platoon mindset, signing Park would have seemed like a head-scratcher to man first; especially after an impressive rookie campaign from Mark Canha, who found success at the dish and in the field and made himself the front-runner as an everyday starter at the position.
Chances are the Athletics will not be renewing Ike Davis‘ contract for the 2016 season, after undergoing season-ending hip labrum surgery in late-August. Despite his impressive start at the plate and defensive prowess in April and May, his production ultimately plummeted with a dismal slash line of .229/.301/.350 with a .748 OPS and three round trippers.
Nonetheless, first base seems to be taken care of for the moment; so why not move Park to left field?
Well, Jake Smolinski is expected to be on the 25-man roster when Opening Day rolls around. The same goes for Coco Crisp, who signed a two-year, $22.75 million deal through the 2016 season — which includes a vesting option for 2017. Even though the Los Angeles native has battled his share of injuries as of late, it remains highly unlikely that the 36-year-old will retire with $11 million remaining on his contract.
By the process of elimination, the only viable spot on the Athletics roster for Park would be as the designated hitter — thus potentially deeming Butler as the “odd man out”. It’s the only meaningful explanation after a lack-luster 2015 performance from the Kansas City free agent. Lets not forget Oakland’s clubhouse chemistry concerns, where Butler’s name has surfaced not once, but several times, which is something Beane is not willing to put up with moving forward.
What does this mean for the Athletics?
It’s safe to say that Oakland is lacking a true middle-of-the-order power hitter, and Park would have been an outstanding presence in the Athletics lineup after recording back-to-back 50+ homer campaigns in the Korean Baseball Organization with a combined 270 RBI in a two-year span. But, that doesn’t mean general manager David Forst won’t stop looking to improve his team in the outfield, whether its via trade or free agency as mentioned in one of Joe Stiglich’s recent pieces for CSN California.
For the time being, the green and gold will look to shore up their bullpen after the ball club finished with a 19-35 record in one-run games in 2015. Frankly, inquiring about Park in the first place should be evidence that a quiet offseason is all but guaranteed. Brace yourselves A’s fans, because the Winter Meetings will be upon us before you know it.