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Chan Ho Park: $600K of Insurance

Mike SteffanosFriday, February 9, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

I have to admit that reading the rumors of Chan Ho Park signing for $3 million earlier today gave me a little agita. Then I read this in the Post's Mets Blog:

The Mets have agreed to terms, pending a physical, with righthander Chan Ho Park, according to a person familiar with the situation. ... According to the person, the contract for Park -- who will turn 34 in June -- will be a major league deal. It's believed to be for one year and has a base salary of less than $1 million.

That made me feel a little better, but I had to run out on an appointment at that point. While I was driving I listened to WFAN, and they were still quoting the $3 million figure. When I returned from my appointment I was relieved to learn that the deal only guarantees $600,000. He'll need to hit innings incentives to reach $3 million mark.

I'm still not quite sure to make of adding Park to the scrum of pitchers competing for jobs in camp. On the one hand, Park was a decent pitcher when he was with the Dodgers, and at 33 has a chance to turn into one of those "lightning in a bottle" signings. On the other, Park hasn't been a really good pitcher since 2001, since his 4.81 ERA last season in one of the best pitcher's parks in baseball doesn't qualify.

Still, a $600K insurance policy given the uncertainties that the Mets are facing isn't unreasonable. The worry is the sheer number of candidates competing for jobs. I think Bob Sikes from getting paid to watch has it right:

Word that Chan Ho Park is in the fold, brings to mind something Frank Cashen said once.

"You can't have too much pitching, but you can have too many pitchers."

Taking into consideration that Pedro Martinez and Dave Williams won't be pitching this spring, the recent signings of Aaron Sele and now Chan Ho Park brings the number to 12 the pitchers who need to prepare to start games this season. Its clear that starting staffs for both New Orleans AAA and the Mets will be in major league camp.

There's no way all 12 can get a fair look meaning its likely some decisions have already been made about who the Mets want to get the first starts in April...

So while I'm grateful that Park isn't getting the kind of guaranteed money that would force him on the roster whether he is effective or not, it really is going to be impossible for the Mets to really get a fair look at all of the guys who have a legitimate shot to make the team. Having some numbers and options are nice, but at what point does it all become unworkable?

From a starting pitching standpoint -- barring injury -- I think Glavine and El Duque are lock right now for the first two slots in the rotation. I think Maine and Perez have jobs to lose, although if they pitch really poorly that could happen. Viable candidates for the fifth starter would include: Park, Mike Pelfrey, Phil Humber, Alay Soler, Jason Vargas, Aaron Sele and Jorge Sosa.

In the bullpen, again barring injury, I think the locks are Wagner, Sanchez, Heilman and Scott Schoeneweis. That leaves Feliciano, Adkins, Burgos and Padilla as realistic contenders for bullpen spots, along with a couple of others who will at least get a look and some of the candidates for the rotation, including Park, who will also battle for the long relief job. If you accept my four locks for the rotation and other four for the bullpen, that leaves 11 legit guys -- along with some dark horses -- competing for 3-4 jobs. Bob Sikes is right, that's a lot of pitchers looking for spring innings.

I can't fault Omar Minaya for the low-risk signing, but Rick Peterson and staff will really have their work cut out for them in camp.

We'll try to get the Chan Ho Park preview posted by Monday, and then we'll wrap it up before camp starts.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (10)

As it stands now, here's what I think about the starting rotation:

El Duque-starter
John Maine-starter unless he has a disaster of a spring
Oliver Perez-starter with a shorter leash especially if he is wild
Chan Ho Park-starter job his to lose
Aaron Sele-would have been #5 but now gets bumped to #6 with Park signing. Odd man out.
Jorge Sosa-long relief role
Pelfrey, Humber, Vargas, Soler-back to the minors getting innings. Where they really still belong.

Im no fan of Park and when I first heard the news a I was not happy... but when I heard it was 1 year and not alot of $ I was ok with it... ITs not a bad move for Omar honestly... No loose because he can be dumped anytime.....

If Mad Dog hadn't been on vacation today, what you heard about that $3mil figure would've been a lot worse. Some of Omar's pickups may have the faint whiff of has-been, but they always seem to have a significant once-was in their resumes, as opposed to never-freakin'-will-be. For $600K, I'm okay with Park. More competition for the young guys, more insurance for the long haul.

Pete, with Sele being a notorious 1st half pitcher, I'm not so sure you can count him down a notch. For once, I'm actually gonna pay close attention to Spring Training!

I wonder how much of this signing has to do with the anticipated April weather. The Mets front office, by all accounts, desperately wants either Humber or Pelfrey to earn a rotation spot this spring. But do they really want to rely on either of them trying to find success while it is 40-50 degrees at Shea through most of April?

I think we can expect either Park or Sele to be slotted into the 5th spot in the rotation. I also think John Maine and Oliver Perez are now expected to keep their rotation spots unless they implode. And at the same time, I expect Pelfrey and Humber to go to a warmer New Orleans to pitch regular starts every 5th day and acquire the innings everyone would feel more comfortable with them getting.

Once the warm weather rolls around it would likely be prudent to reassess which starters (between Perez, Park, Sele, Pelfrey and Humber) deserve the final 2 rotation spots. And at that point I expect the rotation to change to include Pelfrey or Humber. It would also give the team a few starts to assess whether Perez will be a reliable stud, or a guy they need to replace in the rotation.

Some interesting points from all of you. Thanks, guys.

Park definately muddies the water. But realistically what can you expect from this 'rag-tag' group. Glavine at last sighting was in the after effects of a an aneurysm, and he did not pitch real well down the stretch. He had 2 good starts in the playoffs. This season is about his ten wins...and they might be harder to come by than we think. then again the Bullpen depth is set up to say...'just give me 5'.

El duque had a neat run last yr but there were times when he was nightmarish. Perez and Maine as in the St Lou series, looked as good as any of the candidates.

i still think a Spring trade is possible. But I agree with salman that Omar wants to wait until june before putting Humber and Pelfrey into the Shea mix.

I'm sure that Mr. Steffanos will soon provide a very thorough analysis of Park, but in the meantime... What's he got? In his arsenal of weapons, I mean. I saw that he struck out between 6 and 7 guys per inning on average last year, so he must have a few decent or above average pitches. What does he throw?

Oh yes I DO feel better about signing Mr. Park at those numbers.

That quote of Frank Cashen's, that one can have too many pitchers, reminded me of a common practice of the Cleveland Indians in the bad old 70's. They used to show up in camp with about twenty starting candidates each spring. I remember it because Sporting News reported on it, and because I had somehow become a fan from afar of one of those never-was', a worthy fellow name of Steve Dunning. He once beat Vida Blue in a pitcher's duel; and that was very nearly his only high mark in the majors.

Remember the baseball idea of a different pitcher every inning? Are we are going there someday.

Chris - Mostly fastball, slider and changeup.
Rev - Maybe we'll expand the roster to 100 and pull a La Russa with matching up righties and lefties. A ticket to the ballpark will get you your money's worth, as games will take 8 hours to play.

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