Over the winter both the Twins and Mariners imported right-handed sluggers from Korea, but they went about it in very different ways. The Twins paid a $12.85 million posting fee for Byung Ho Park, then gave him a four-year contract worth $12 million. The Mariners picked up Dae Ho Lee on a cheap minor-league contract.
Friday night, both Park and Lee hit their first MLB home runs. Park, who started at DH and hit sixth for Minnesota, clubbed a go-ahead solo home run off Royals setup man Joakim Soria in the eighth inning. Here's the video:
Unfortunately the Twins' bullpen blew the lead (KC 4, MIN 3), so Park's homer went for naught. He is 2 for 9 (.222) with the one home run and one RBI in three games so far. Park, 29, hit .313/.436/.714 with 53 home runs for the Nexen Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization last year. He hit 52 homers the year before.
A few hours later and a couple thousand miles northwest, Lee swatted a solo home run off Athletics lefty Erik Surkamp. The fifth-inning home run got the Mariners on the board and cut Oakland's lead to 2-1. To the action footage:
Lee started at first base and batted eighth for the Mariners, who eventually battled back to tie the A's before the bullpen blew it late (OAK 3, SEA 2). The homer is Lee's only hit so far this season. He is 1 for 6.
Unlike Park, Lee did not spend his last few seasons playing Korea. He played in Japan instead. The 33-year-old put up a .282/.368/.524 batting line with 31 home runs for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in 2015.
After Jung Ho Kang came over and had an immediate impact with the Pirates last season, MLB teams are starting to take a much closer look at Korean players. Park and Lee are the part of the next wave.