The results of the Byung-ho Park bidding were revealed today, with the Minnesota Twins announced as the team that won the rights to negotiate with Park. Of course, this also means that the Pirates weren’t the winning team, which means they won’t have an All-Korean corner infield alignment next year, pairing Park with Jung-ho Kang.
What this ultimately means for the Pirates is that they will have to settle for turning their long-term first base position over to one of the top prospects in the game. Josh Bell was the first baseman of the future for the Pirates heading into the off-season, and nothing has changed after the Twins won the rights to Park.
I wrote about Park a few weeks ago, and the situation wasn’t clear-cut. There was a lot of risk involved in signing Park with Bell in the fold. The reward would obviously be an excess in talent at first base if Park worked out and Bell reached his potential in the majors. But it could have also worked out for the worse, with the Pirates wasting a lot of money on a guy who could only play first base for them, when they had a first baseman who was close to the majors.
Regardless of how Park works out, I’m a believer in Bell’s future. I think he’s going to be a great hitter from the left side, with some easy power that will only improve going forward. I don’t think he’ll get the same power from the right side, but he could get on base and hit for average, avoiding a platoon situation. He might not be the best defensive first baseman, but I think he’ll hit enough to make up for the defense.
The only problem with Park is that the Pirates will need a short-term option at first base until Bell arrives. While I love the upside for Bell, he still has things to work on. His defense right now is very poor, and would make him one of the worst defensive first basemen in the league, on par with Pedro Alvarez. He might improve on this going forward, but a lot of the improvements will have to take place in the majors. Even before that happens, he’ll have to improve to the point where it would make sense to put him in the majors.
He improved on his power at the end of the year with a new leg kick in Indianapolis, and if that holds up, his bat won’t be far away. He will need further changes to improve his approach from the right side, but his hands and pure hitting skills are so good that the right adjustment could lead to instant results, similar to what happened with his approach from the left side.
Bell won’t be ready until mid-season, and at mid-season he’s still going to need some development that will take place in the majors. So how can the Pirates fill first base in the short-term?
One option would be sticking with Pedro Alvarez and Michael Morse. I like the Morse side of that equation. He doesn’t have good defense, but it’s better than Alvarez’s defense. He also has a lot of raw power that didn’t show up in games last year, but definitely didn’t disappear, as I saw many times in batting practice over the final two months.
Alvarez was good offensively, but his defense was so bad that he was a replacement level player. I think he could be upgraded over in the short-term, and for a cheaper price. Someone like Justin Morneau would cost the same, or less than Alvarez, while providing better overall value, and much better defense.
The Pirates are good in the long-term at first base with Bell in the system. In the short-term, they’re going to need an answer, but I don’t think that answer will be difficult to find. Overall, Park would have been a nice luxury for the team, but he wasn’t absolutely necessary to sign.
**AFL Live: Big Nights For Meadows and McGuire, Dickson Throws a Shutout Inning. Tonight’s AFL live recap. I’ve been getting interviews while I’ve been down here, and will start rolling out some analysis articles, starting with a great look at Trevor Williams tomorrow.
**Pirates Claim RHP Guido Knudson Off Waivers From the Tigers. I’m guessing that he will go back on waivers later in the off-season, with hopes of clearing and going to Triple-A.
**Pirates Re-Sign Rinku Singh and Several Player/Coaches. Not a big story from a prospect perspective, but another prospect with an interesting background remains in the system.
**Pirates Promote Two Scouts to Special Assistants to the General Manager. The replacements for Jim Benedict and Marc DelPiano, plus two scouts promoted from the amateur side to the professional side.
**Orlando Castro Among Minor League Players Released by Pirates. A few players were announced as released today. Here is the breakdown of those guys.
**Pirates’ Minor League Free Agent List Includes Dodson, Inman and Lincoln. Speaking of which, here are the minor league free agents from the weekend, along with some other minor moves.
**Pirates Reportedly Not the Winning Bidder For Byung-ho Park. The Pirates didn’t get Park.
**Winter Leagues: Good Reports Out of Mexico Regarding Carlos Munoz. A first baseman who had a breakout year in the lower levels is not only putting up good numbers in Mexico, but getting good reports.
**Austin Meadows With a Big Home Run in the AFL Fall Stars Game. From this weekend, the recap of the Fall Stars game, where Meadows homered.
**2015 Rotation Recap: Injuries Pushed the Arrival of the Prospects Back a Year. From the weekend, a recap of the 2015 rotation and a look ahead to the future.