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.