The Pirates announced they’ve designated an infielder Hey Park for assignment. The move creates a 40-man roster spot for first baseman Lewin Diazwho has been claimed off waivers from the Marlins as previously reported.
Park landed in Pittsburgh alongside Diego Castillo in the increasingly regrettable deal that sent reliever Clay Holmes to the Yankees. Park had only appeared in one big league game with New York to that point, but he was sitting on an incredible .325/.475/.567 line in Triple-A. He looked like a plug-and-play middle infield option for the Bucs, but he never seized control of a spot in an uncertain second base mix.
The South Korean native hit .197/.299/.339 through 144 plate appearances down the stretch in 2021. He walked at a very strong 12.1% clip but didn’t make much of an impact on batted balls and struck out more than a quarter of the time he came to the plate. Park spent most of this past season as an upper minors depth infielder. He appeared in just 23 MLB games while suiting up 89 times at Triple-A Indianapolis.
In contrast to his incredible 2021 work at the minors’ highest level, Park hit .225/.332/.354 through 375 plate appearances there in 2022. He again showed a willingness to work deep counts, drawing walks at just shy of a 14 % clip, and he was successful on all 14 of his stolen base attempts. Still, a 26.4% strikeout rate and a modest 10 home runs and 11 doubles contributed to a below-average offensive performance. He didn’t do much in his 60 MLB plate appearances this year, hitting .216/.276/.373 with a pair of longballs.
The Pirates are lacking a slam-dunk option to play second base after trading Kevin Newman to the division-rival Reds last week. General manager Ben Cherington recently told reporters they were open to addressing the position from outside the organization, and Park clearly had fallen to the bottom of the depth chart among their internal options. As things currently stand, Rodolfo Castro looks like the favorite to join Oneil Cruz in the middle infield, although Castillo and Ji Hwan Bae could battle for reps before accounting for any external pickups.
The Bucs will now have a week to trade Park or try to run him through waivers. His plate discipline and defensive flexibility could draw him some attention. He’s capable of playing anywhere on the infield, although he’s increasingly seen more time at second and third base than at shortstop. Park also has a bit of experience at each of the three outfield positions, making him a possible versatile left-handed bench bat. He’s yet to find much success against big league pitching, but he’s a career .250/.362/.368 hitter over parts of seven minor league seasons. Park still has a pair of option years remaining, so another team could stash him in the upper minors as depth if they’re willing to devote him a 40-man roster spot.