Let’s start with this: Chan Ho Park isn’t a particularly good pitcher. At the tail end of his time with the Dodgers, Park was an above average starter, but as soon as he signed with the Rangers as a free agent his career was marred with injury and ineffectiveness. However, in the past 2 seasons, Park has reinvented himself as a useful 5th starter/setup man with good results. In 2008, he pitched 95 innings for the Dodgers and compiled a 123 ERA+. Last season, with the Phillies, Park compiled an 96 ERA+ over 83 innings. Great numbers? Well, not really, but enough to show that 2008 was not a fluke.
Park still features a decent fastball, which, when pitching out of the bullpen, he is able to dial up to the mid 90s. Park’s K-Rate last year was 7.9 per 9 innings, so he can get a strikeout. He also posted the lowest HR per 9 innings of his career, at 0.5, while pitching in the Phillies’ homer-happy home park. If he can continue that trend, he should be a serviceable reliever for any team.
The real question here is what role Park will have on the Yankees and whether or not they really need him. At first glance, you’d be inclined to think he slots in behind Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre, and Alfredo Aceves for the long man role, because, like I said, Park isn’t a great pitcher. But if you look at the numbers for Gaudin and Mitre in particular, they are no great shakes themselves. In fact, neither has ever had a season where they posted an ERA+ of 100 or above. Brian Cashman claims that this is a signing about depth and that when it comes to pitching, “the more the merrier.” Mitre had Tommy John Surgery recently and Gaudin is not, at this point, a proven commodity. Remember: for as great as the Yankees were in 2009, by the time the playoffs rolled around, they didn’t really have a 4th starter. Cashman always like to say he “throws things against the wall and sees what sticks” and this is another classic example of that. It’s a long season, and the Yankees are wise to stock up on as many low-cost pitching options as possible. When it comes to relievers especially, you never know who could get hot and put together a good season. At the same time though, considering the Yankees new financial restraints, it also wouldn’t be surprising to see them trade either Gaudin or Mitre if they end up with a need elsewhere.
Park also helps ensure that the likes of David Robertson and Mark Melancon won’t be thrown to the wolves immediately, as the Yankees know it’s dangerous to rely too much on young pitchers. If nothing else, Park will be a veteran arm to soak up some innings.
Buster Olney tweeted that the Phillies offered Park $3.25 million earlier in the offseason. Perhaps the most compelling reason for the Yankees to sign Park is simply that he’s good value. The bottom line is that Park would be the 5th starter or primary setup man on a good number of teams in baseball and the Yankees signed him for $1.25 million with some small incentives. He should be worth more than that, even if he ends up as nothing more than a veteran arm at the back of the bullpen.