What does the Chan Ho Park signing mean for the rest of the bullpen?


Like most of you, I was surprised to find out the Yankees had signed Chan Ho Park to a one-year deal when I woke up this morning. We heard some rumblings about the team having possible interest in Park last week, but I wrote it off as the typical “let’s get the Yankees involved to drive up the price” shtick. Joe will take a more in-depth look at Park later on tonight, but for now let’s just try to figure out how he fits into the bullpen and how it’ll affect everyone else out there.

First off all, aside from Park, the other reliever most impacted by this move is Edwar Ramirez because he’s the guy likely to be designated for assignment to free up a 40-man roster spot. Chances are he’ll clear waivers and be outrighted to Triple-A Scranton. Since this will be the first outright assignment of his career, Edwar won’t have the chance to decline the assignment and elect to become a free agent. He’s going to Triple-A whether he likes it or not.

With the addition of Park, the Yankees have six relievers all but locked into spots in their seven man bullpen. Before this morning’s move, Damaso Marte and David Robertson figured to get the bulk of the late inning work in front of Mariano Rivera, while Al Aceves soaked up the middle innings and Chad Gaudin did the mop up/long relief thing. The roles might change slightly with Park aboard (bullpen chaining FTW!) but the players figure to remain the same, so that seventh and final spot is in a state of flux, and there’s certainly no shortage of options to fill it.

Just looking at our Depth Chart, you have Jon Albaladejo, Mark Melancon, Romulo Sanchez, Boone Logan, Sergio Mitre, and the loser of the Phil Hughes/Joba Chamberlain fifth starter battle all as candidates for that spot. Obviously some have a more realistic chance of breaking camp with the team than others. Mitre is out of options, so the Yankees would have to risk losing him on waivers before they could send him to the minors, however everyone else I mentioned could be sent down at the end of Spring Training without incident.

Looking at how the first two weeks of the season lay out, I bet the Yanks will send the winner of the fifth starter battle to Triple-A while the loser hangs out in the big league bullpen. They won’t need a fifth starter until their 11th game of the season, so instead of carrying that extra starter and having him go stale during the two week layoff, he’ll go down and make a start or two in Scranton to stay ready. The Yanks can then use the roster spot that would go to the fifth starter to carry an eighth reliever for the time being. Considering how they plan to take it easy on their front four starters out of the gate, plus the general unpredictably of April pitching, having that eighth reliever around to eat some innings early on will come in handy.

With the addition of Park, that extra spot appears to go to Sergio Mitre almost by default. He’s out of minor league options, and he’s capable of pitching multiple innings if needed. Joe Girardi also has the option of using that extra spot to take a second lefty reliever in Logan, especially since their first six games are against the lefty heavy lineups of Boston and Tampa. I just can’t see them taking a chance on losing Mitre for six measly games in April. I know Mitre stinks, but there’s value in his ability to eat up low-leverage innings out of the pen, especially early on when the starters are still getting their feet wet in meaningful games.

So, assuming everyone stays healthy through camp, here’s what I expect the bullpen to look like on Opening Day…

Closer: Mo
Setup: Hughes/Joba (I fully expect it to be Hughes)
LOOGY: Marte
Middle: Aceves
Middle: Robertson
Middle: Park
Long: Gaudin
Long: Mitre

Those two weeks buy the Yankees some time. They can evaluate Mitre a little longer, and at the same time he can try to prove his worth not just to his current team, but to another one that might need a starter at some point. Moving his salary will get the team back under their $200M budget, so that all works out. I guess in an ideal world, the Yanks would send Mitre to the Dodgers for Jamie Hoffmann‘s rights, which would allow them to send the outfielder to the minors. Given what Joe Torre’s fifth starter situation looks like, maybe it’s not that far fetched.

What happens after those two weeks is beyond me, but these things always find a way to work themselves out. I don’t think the Yankees will move Gaudin or Mitre now just because; this move was about adding depth, not shuffling bodies around. No one foresaw The Great Chien-Ming Wang Disaster Of 2009, so who knows what to expect in 2010. On paper though, the Yankees’ bullpen is very deep with strikeout power arms, beyond just the core group of guys that figure to do the bulk of the work all season. It’s quite a difference from what the bullpen looked like just a few years ago.

Photo Credit: Eric Gay, AP

Categories : Death by Bullpen


  1. So Boone Logan heads to AAA and is probably the first guy called up, barring a trade. I’d be surprised to see the Yanks break camp though with both Gaudin and Mitre still on the team.

    • Yages says:

      Really? Not Melancon? I was hoping to see more of him this year in the Bronx. What do you think the reasoning is behind us getting Park as opposed to going with Melancon, Albaladejo, etc.? It just strikes me as an unnecessary move.

      • Chip says:

        Park has a proven record of success. His second half of dominating the majors is better than Melancon’s minor league career of dominating.

        • Also:

          More relievers >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> fewer relievers

          • Omar says:

            Totally agreed, I was hoping that they’d sign Ohman, but I guess I prefer this. I hope they pick up Beimel on a minor league deal, but I guess it isn’t that big of a deal.

        • ROBTEN says:

          Park has a proven record of success. His second half of dominating the majors is better than Melancon’s minor league career of dominating.

          Plus, given that both Mitre and Gaudin are out of options, and the problems with sending Hughes to AAA if he breaks camp with the team, it was highly unlikely that Melancon was going to make the pen out of camp even before the Park signing.

          He’s most likely one of the first call-ups, though.

          …and, remember, the bullpen in May is not the bullpen in August.

    • CountryClub says:

      Yeah, I agree. Gaudin would probably bring more back in a trade (maybe even a useful prospect) but Mitre will be easier to move because of him 850k salary.

      If it’s one of them, I hope Mitre goes.

    • Doug says:

      me too actually. i think the yanks saw a good, cheap, pen option in park, but their budget still exists. see them dealing gaudin or mitre by the middle of march.

  2. Ed says:

    I tossed this out the other night in the post laying out the rotation for the first two weeks, but with Park signing I think it’s even more appropriate.

    Send both Joba and Hughes to AAA at the start of the season. Get them two starts each. Let them start the year off easy by dominating minor leaguers. Get a confidence boost and keep them in shape. Extend the 5th starter competition to the last minute – let the minor league starts count in the decision (or at least tell them that it does).

    You do that and you’ve bought yourself 2 more weeks to sort through everything. You get 2 more roster spots to evaluate relievers. Maybe someone goes down elsewhere and there’s sudden demand for Mitre or Gaudin.

    Hughes has 1 option and Joba has 3(?), however, neither can realistically be optioned after different points in the season, so there’s no reason to be conservative with them.

    • Spinning it forward:

      If we’re going to open the season with both Hughes and Joba in Scranton, biding time until we need the fifth starter, why not go north with only an 11 man pitching staff? CC-AJ-Andy-Jazzy as starters, Mo-Marte-Robertson-Aceves-Park-Gaudin-Mitre as bullpen?

      Going a man short in pitching would allow us to roll 14-deep in position players, and that means a 5-man bench: Cervelli-Peña-Winn-Hoffmann-Thames. We thus don’t need to send Hoffmann back or cut Thames loose (for two weeks).

      • Mike Bk says:

        sounds good.

      • Ed says:

        That works for me.

        One small downside to that though – Thames is on a non-guaranteed minor league contract. If they put him on the opening day roster, he contract becomes guaranteed at $900k. If they cut him after 2 weeks, they just spend almost a million dollars on a two week audition for the 25th roster spot.

        Yeah, if someone picks him up, that team is responsible for the prorated minimum, but if he gets picked up immediately it’s still over $500k for 2 weeks.

      • Omar says:

        My only issue with that is that I’m sure Hoffmann will blow asshole galore, I know a 5th OF is supposed to suck…but I’d hope that they can do better than him. Although, I like the idea of going 14 position players and just using a Rivera/Marte/Robertson/Aceves/Park/Gaudin/Hughes or Chamberlain in the bullpen. Even once they have the 5th starter in there.

    • Mike Bk says:

      i agree send them both down to start the year and bring up the winner when we need a 5th while leaving the other down there for maybe a month or 6 weeks to get roughly 40-50 innings of work in and keeps them stretched out in case of injury.

      • Doug says:

        and if it’s hughes, so that he doesn’t have an innings limit next year

      • while leaving the other down there for maybe a month or 6 weeks to get roughly 40-50 innings of work in

        This, I like. I’ve been pimping Hughes in Scranton ’til the Stretch™, but frankly, at this point I’d just be happy with Hughes in Scranton for a Month™.

        • Mike Bk says:

          unlikely they would keep him down there that long, but if they did any chance we go 6 man rotation down the stretch this year to save the horses some innings?

        • king of fruitless hypotheticals/hopelessly waiting for juan says:

          And Juan Miranda can come play in NY for two-three weeks to PH for our random left fielder, to be replaced that inning by another random left fielder.

      • Ed says:

        If they’re willing to leave someone down for 6 weeks, then you give Hughes the 5th starter job (at least initially) and leave Joba down. That would delay Joba’s free agency by a year.

        • Mike Bk says:

          well they both have very similar service time totals so it helps with either one.

          • Ed says:

            Not really. Hughes is at something like 2 2/3 seasons of service time while Joba is a little under 2 1/3. Joba’s is easier to game.

            Hughes would need to spend almost the entire season in AAA to have any meaningful service time implications.

            • Mike Bk says:

              just going by cot’s service time listing

              Joba ML service: 2.055
              Hughes ML service: 2.114

              • Ed says:

                I was going from memory, but yeah, I was pretty close. A season has 180 days of service time, so they’re a hair under 2 1/3 and 2 2/3 years service time.

                I was a little off on Joba – he needs 8 weeks in the minors, not 6, to delay his free agency.

                Hughes needs almost 4 months to delay it.

        • If this is true, they should do this.

    • Bo says:

      Both Joba and Hughes in Scranton?

      Thats fantasy leand type stuff. Why in the world would you have 2 of your best pitchers pitching in the minors?

    • Chris says:

      I still don’t think that it’s a given that the loser of the 5th starter competition will begin the season in the pen. Based on their recent history, I don’t think the Yankees will be willing to transition one of their young starters from the pen to the rotation in mid-season. If that’s the case, then a decision to move one of them to the pen now would effectively give up on them starting for the entire season. I just don’t think the Yankees would make such a move at the start of the season. In June or July I could see them being moved to the pen if the need exists, but not at the start of the season.

  3. So say Joba wins the 5th starter battle. You’re thinking:

    Opening Day 12-man pitching staff:
    Rotation (4)
    Bullpen (8)
    Scranton: Joba

    Then, two weeks later, we promote Joba and attempt to demote… Mitre? Gaudin? Knowing that the DFA process probably means we lose that pitcher on waivers?

    What about this: If they’re all pitching well, demote Aceves. We can stash him down there. If Mo-Hughes-Marte-DRob look solid, why not waste Aceves in Scranton for a while to buy more time to see what’s there in the Park/Gaudin/Mitre smorgasbord? Maybe one or two of them build some surplus value and we can use them in that trade.

    I still love Plan A the best: trade Mitre for Hoffmann’s rights. If it’s possible.

  4. Chip says:

    Actually, wouldn’t this open the door to sending down Hughes and not skipping the fifth starter spot but giving it to Joba? He doesn’t have any innings limits and Girardi has talked about wanting to keep his horses fresh so why not give them all that extra two days off in April? That might also allow Joba to get in a rhythm and hopefully start the year off right. If not then at least they know sooner rather than later and can switch the two of them.

    With Park on board, the Yankees have two right handed strikeout pitchers in Park and Robertson that would fill Hughes potential role in the bullpen. A bullpen of

    Closer: Rivera
    Set-up: Robertson
    Set-up: Park (whoever is pitching better)
    LOOGY: Marte
    Middle: Aceves (could also do set-up work)
    Middle: Gaudin
    Middle: Mitre (in an ideal world I’d also like to trade him and see what Melancon has or maybe if Sanchez has a big spring, it nothing else you can let Logan take it and give Girardi his two lefties)

    is actually really really good. I mean you have the options of Robertson and his hammer curve or Park with his 95-96 mph heater on the corners. Also, this allows you to save an option on Joba in case you need it next year (you never know). The second a starter goes down (come on it WILL happen) you have Hughes step right in and shouldn’t miss a beat while not messing with the pen. I love it

  5. crawdaddie says:

    If Cashman can’t trade Mitre, why can’t he simply cut Mitre before the end of March for a 45 day prorated portion of his 850K salary?

  6. A.D. says:

    If they want to to take it easy on the starters why not just start the year with a 5 man staff and keep them spaced out.

  7. pat says:

    Didn’t Joe love Edwar too? I doubt Mitre alone is enough to let us keep Hoffman. Perhaps Edwar and Sergio would be enough to get it done. Being able to stash Hoffman away in Scranton would end up being one of my favorite moves of the off season, if it came to be.

  8. Looking at Chop’s awesome AsianBeard, I can’t stop thinking of this:


    We have a new nickname, methinks.

  9. bexarama says:

    I’m not gonna lie, I don’t love this, just because I’ve been burned by old relievers too much in the past. But it probably means we can put Hughes in Scranton so he can continue starting, or spin Mitre/Gaudin for something of value, so cool.

  10. Steve H says:

    Do you really think Edwar clears waivers? If I’m an NL team I snap him up quickly, has had MLB (and AL East) success, strong K rates, young, cheap. He could probably close in the NL.*

    *A little hyperbole there.

  11. larryf says:

    Scranton games are looking better and better. $14 seats and a great pitching staff with lots of easy autographs for my son. Win Win…

  12. Andrew says:

    koreans represent.

  13. AndrewYF says:

    Guesses on possible CHOP headlines?

    Chan No!
    Can-do Park
    Korean Pitcher Confused by Lack of Official ‘North-South’ Division in Foreign Country

  14. Bo says:

    At least this signing ends all the talk about a “budget”.

  15. Rick says:

    No way Park is effective once that beard comes off

  16. Ned says:

    Assuming both Joba and Hughes pitch decently, do we need to put either one in the pen at the beginning of the season, or even after the the first 2 weeks?

    Let’s look at the rotation; I think they have all been (over)used the past 2 years. Why not give them a little break occasionally with an extra day off to keep them fresh during the season and playoffs.

    CC: I know he is an ace and a workhorse, and everyone would prefer he pitches than a 5/6 starter. Would it really be a disaster though if he only started about 30-32 instead of his “usual” 34-35, especially considering last years post-season workload?

    AJ: He pitched well last year, most of the time. Don’t I remember endless conversations about him being an injury risk? The past 2 years he has been over 200 innings- much more when you consider last years post-season. Is he an injury away from disaster? Would it hurt to cut his starts to 30?

    Andy: He turns 38 this year; how long is he going to go without a new injury? He was (over)used last year. While he is a remarkable big-game and post-season pitcher, he started to run out of gas last year. Wouldn’t it be wise to go a little easier on him in low profile games and drop him to 30 starts.

    Javy: No matter what you think about his shoulder injury induced meltdown in the second half of 2004, the guy has been a work horse. He averages over 200 innings and 33 starts. This should be his limit, and maybe a couple less starts.

    Joba: Supposedly there are no Joba rules. Assuming he can pitch well, do it consistently, and get past the 5th inning, he probably should start no more than 28-30 games.

    Of course all this is a best case scenario- no melt-downs or injuries. So that give us about starts:
    CC 30-32
    AJ 28-30
    Andy 28-30
    Javy 30-32
    Joba 28

    The total would be 148-152. That leaves 10-12 starts for someone else. Given that Hughes is slated to be a starter, if he can handle it, this could give him at least 60-70 innings as a starter.

    Again assuming there are no injuries and Hughes can pitch reliably, he could pick up probably an equal amount in long relief and the playoffs. This would set him up for 2011 without “Hughes rules”.

    I know there a lot of holes in the scenario I outlined above, and a lot is dependent on lack of injuries, consistent pitching by 2 unproven starters, and how close the pennant race actually is.

    It would take some schedule and rotation juggling, but wouldn’t it be worth it if it prevented burnout and injuries, developed Joba and Hughes as legitimate starters, and brought us again to the WS?

  17. pete says:

    To me, this should mean that neither Hughes nor Joba starts the year in the ‘pen. If by mid or late may the bullpen truly needs an arm of that caliber, then you make adjustments, but there’s simply too high a chance that a bullpen of Mo/Roberson/Aceves/Marte/Park/Gaudin is one of the better (potentially top 5) bullpens in the league to compromise a pitcher like Hughes or Joba by stashing him there.

    I think that with the bullpen we should apply the same normalization curve philosophy that we’ve applied to the offense vs. defense in Left/Center with Damon leaving. Unless everybody, or almost everybody in the pen truly bombs, neither Hughes nor Joba is going to make THAT much of an impact, because you’re taking a less significant part of a team that is already a strength, and strengthening it. We all get that, I think.

    The rotation, however, while teeming with upside and proven talent, has plenty of room for concern – concerns which, if realized, would have a much more damaging (and much more difficult to reverse) effect than an inconsistent bullpen (which is kind of redundant to begin with). For instance, while in my opinion Sabathia hasn’t been overworked, the fact that he has thrown a ton of pitches in the last few years is undeniable, and from that it certainly isn’t out of the question that he is befallen by either injury or a performance dropoff (which would necessitate that another starter pitch as well as or close to as well as Sabathia does, which is not something that we can reasonably expect from any of our other starters). Burnett has had back-to-back healthy years, but these have resulted in back-to-back career highs in innings (I think), and while he may have fixed something, he may also have just gotten lucky (relative to his own history). It’s not unreasonable to think he may go down. Pettitte is 36 years old. No more needs to be said. And of course, Joba did have a pretty big innings jump last year, and he did injure his shoulder back in ’08. So he’s not out of this conversation either.

    Ideally, you’d have quality arms to replace all of these guys, but of course that’s a ridiculous pipe dream. The yanks do, however, have the opportunity this year to have a quality arm waiting in Scranton, ready to step in at any time. I simply do not think that this opportunity should be squandered for the sake of diminishing marginal returns in the bullpen. Like I said, if they’re totally shitting the bed by mid-may, then you reexamine it, but if not, it simply isn’t worth it.

    This is why that damn three years waiver rule pisses me off so much. Without it, I think the choice would be clear – Hughes in Scranton until/unless the MLB club needs another starter. But of course there’s no way Hughes would clear waivers, so this becomes a much more problematic scenario. I would imagine that the FO is trying to find a way to deal with this as we speak. They could always have him get “injured”, but I dunno. It’s just a shitty situation, really.

    • Ed says:

      This is why that damn three years waiver rule pisses me off so much. Without it, I think the choice would be clear – Hughes in Scranton until/unless the MLB club needs another starter.

      That rule only kicks in at the end of April, so he can start the year off in Scranton no problem. They just can’t use him for random spot starts with the intention of sending him back down after.

  18. emac2 says:

    I hope that it means a big trade is coming.

    AJ and Swisher to LA for Kemp and Manny with Hughes and Joba both in the rotation instead of playing games with possible bullpen roles which, at this point in their development, is counterproductive to the long term needs to extend their innings.

  19. Any chance Park becomes a type B FA after the season by getting cheap wins like Aceves (10) last year?

  20. Joey H. says:

    My first reaction to move move was: Why? Then I realized screw it, it’ll make the others compete due to the scarcity of spots. Lets just hope this doesn’t turn out like LaTroy Hawkins.

  21. He should at lest come in handy during any brawls.

    http://www.fightdump.com/fight.....fight.html (ads nsfw)

  22. Any time you can grab a bearded Korean man that kicks people while running to 1st, you’ve gotta do it.

    Good jerb, Cashmoney.

  23. Hughesus Christo says:

    I’d like to see Hughes starting in AAA, but most importantly…

    DFA the shit out of Mitre.

  24. [...] Yankees bullpen composition changed today when they signed Chan Ho Park to a major league contract. Mike went through the implications, [...]

  25. MikeD says:

    One of my first reactions when I heard this was the Yankees might be planning (or at least toying with the idea) on sending either Hughes or Joba to AAA to keep them in shape as a starter. So if Joba wins the #5 slot, Hughes goes to AAA waiting the eventual call that always comes when a starter goes down, or if Joba just doesn’t step up his game as a starter after a couple of months, then Joba moves to the pen, and Hughes steps in as the number give.

    Overall, it seems to be another example of the Yankees brining in a number of arms so they have depth and options in the pen, and the ones that perform the best make up the pen.

  26. Jim says:

    Those of you arguing for either or both of Joba and Hughes to spend time in AAA are incredibly misguided. Let’s see: Let’s send down one or two of our best pitchers so that we can give Sergio Mitre more time to establish his value, or some such nonsense. The division may be won by a game or two, and the team cannot afford to be flushing wins down the toilet as they have in years past by similarly misguided thinking. Even if the fifth starter isn’t needed until the 17th, I’d much rather have Joba or Phil doing middle relief work in the big leagues to keep them “sharp” then contributing nothing by pitching in Scranton. The Park pickup was totally unnecessary and will most likely deprive Melancon on a job he deserves.

  27. [...] Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues(A Great Yankee Blog, btw) covered this topic in detail earlier. Here. [...]

  28. [...] out RAB’s take on this issue. Wouldn't you love to see this move against the [...]

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