Monday, February 22, 2010

Yanks Break Self-Imposed Rules, Sign Chan Ho Park

The most prominent and overarching storyline of the Yankees offseason to this point has been their desire to stay under their predetermined but officially undisclosed budget. Particularly when it came to picking an option to reinforce left field, it was the primary concern. In acquiring South Korean right hander Chan Ho Park for $1.2M plus $300,000 in incentives, the Yanks have demonstrated that their adherence to their magic number wasn't simply dogmatic. The same goes for their practice of building their bullpen out of the minor leagues.

As was the case when Mark Teixeira was signed last year - although obviously to a far lesser extent - Brian Cashman decided that Chan Ho Park was worth lobbying the ownership to spend extra for. Park rejected a $3.25M offer to stay with the Phillies midway through the offseason and watched his price fall steadily until, apparently, the Yankees couldn't afford not to sign him.

Park began 2009 as a starter for the Phillies, struggled and was ultimately bumped to the bullpen after a particularly dismal 1 1/3 inning, 5 run effort against the Nationals in mid-May. Once transitioned to the 'pen, he was extremely useful for the Phils, pitching more than one inning in 13 of his 38 appearances and compiling a 2.52 ERA over 50 innings in relief. Park blew Game 2 of the NLCS against the Dodgers but was otherwise very effective in the postseason as well, particularly against the Yanks in the World Series (3.1 IP, 0 ER).

Prior to the move, it seemed like the Yankees were essentially set in the bullpen with Rivera, Hughes/Chamberlain, Robertson, Aceves, Marte, and some combination of Gaudin/Mitre/Logan/Melancon. Given the Major League deal to Park, it's likely that he makes the team out of Spring Training. Consequently, the Yanks may decide to trade Gaudin and his $2.95M salary, as he could be more valuable to a team in need of a 5th starter than one who would employ him primarily as a mop-up man. They could also decide to stash the loser of the much ballyhooed Hughes-Chamberlain Battle in Scranton to start the season, although Joel Sherman doesn't think that is very likely.

Of course, the Yankees are going to catch some flak for this because of the emphasis they've continued to place on the budget. But Brain Cashman isn't a politician. He doesn't need to get re-elected or appease his constituents, so it doesn't matter that he deviated slightly from a previously stated plan (or two). In the end, it's not about sticking to the stated goals; it's about making the team better.

All told, the signing does seem likely to make the Yankees better. During an offseason in which many teams were more than willing to pay good relief pitchers far more than they deserved, Cashman and Co. found a relative bargain. You can question whether or not the signing was really necessary - or worth exceeding the budget for - given that the bullpen was already in good shape, but it's hard to argue that this isn't a good value for the Yanks.

10 comments:

  1. I know what you're saying about value Jay, but I'm not confident that Park will deliver the goods. He had a good '09 relieving, breaking his career trend of being a gopher-ball pitcher by not allowing a homer in 50 IP of relief work last year. But he allowed 10 homers relieving the year before, in 70 IP. His WHIP was considerably higher in '08 relief work (1.464). Basically, I've just seen him getting battered for too long (mainly in Texas and SD) to feel very confident in Park. If he plays and proves me wrong, great, and I'll accept that crow. But how he'll fare in the tougher AL also makes me question this move very much, the low price notwithstanding.

    I guess they see it as low-risk, higher-reward. I see a guy turning 37 with a long history in the 2000s of being a punching bag.

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  2. Eric Solomon2/22/10, 12:58 PM

    Depth is good. Especially after a long 2009 you can imagine one of the starters going down with an injury...then you have Joba and Hughes in the rotation and Park potentially toward the end of games from the pen. And if he sucks, you cut him - it's only $1.2m.

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  3. Oh, that self-imposed rule. The one about the budget. I thought this was going to be about the team's apparent rule forbidding Asian connections.

    Johnny Damon: Thai mother

    Chien-Ming Wang: Taiwanese

    Hideki Matsui: Japanese

    Kei Igawa: The all-time Scranton leader in wins can't even sniff the parent club, let alone the 40-man roster.

    Alfonso Soraiano: Played in Japan and speaks Japanese, so that made it worth dumping him for the clubhouse cancer known as Alex Rodriguez.

    Kim Ng: Left the organization for the same position with another team. Sure sounds like she was pushed out.

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  4. Hey the club house cancer thing is old news. you do remember the 2009 playoffs don't you. hoping for more this year go arod! go

    they should have brought the Moose back to get a ring!

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  5. Jason - All good points. I was probably putting too much stock in what he did last year and hoping that his improvement was a function of being moved to the bullpen. The home run rate is clearly unsustainable, but hopefully he can still be effective.

    NaOH - Actually, I forgot one of the "rules" I was thinking of: the fact that Cashman might have been swayed by Park's performance in the World Series. He said a few times that he wasn't going to take October into consideration when it came to offseason decisions, but it seems like the signing of Park might have had something to do with his excellent work against the Yanks in November.

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  6. An extremely high payroll for the Yankees is obviously not significantly cutting into the bottom line. So, until it does, spend on whomever strengthens the team and the fans will keep buying tickets, hats, and sweatshirts and watching Yankees win. Happily.

    As Tiger Woods should have said: "I'm sorry, I'm not sorry. I am not going to apologize, I am a fucking cocksman."

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  7. Part of me thinks that the self-imposed budget is partially about gaining leverage in deals.

    For instance, the Phillies made him a $3.25 million offer 5 years ago Park and his agent could reasonably expect the Yankees to eventually increase their offer to get who they want.

    The way they're doing it now that the company line is cutbacks, they're saying we've got $1.2 million to offer you - take it or leave it. And guys are taking it. Say whatever you want about Randy Winn and Chan Ho Park, but I think the deals they signed were both very reasonable.

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  8. David in Cal2/23/10, 10:20 PM

    Adding Park strengthens the Yanks by giving them more possible choices of RP, BUT not if they dump some other pitcher to make room for Park on the 40-man roster. E.g., if they trade Gaudin, they remain with the same number of choices of RP, but with Park having replaced Gaudin. I'm not clear on the rules, but my impression is that they must make room for Park on the 40 man roster as soon as they sign him. So, they will have to release some other player before they have a chance to see how everyone performs in spring training.

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  9. David -

    Once Park has his physical the deal becomes official. At that point the Yankees will have to remove someone from the 40 man to make room, most likely Edwar Ramirez.

    When it comes to time to head north they may have a log jam for the 25 man roster. They could shop Mitre and/or Gaudin, or could release either one since both have non-guaranteed contracts.

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