Poll: Should the Yankees sign a top free agent reliever?

Chapman. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
Chapman. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

According to various reports, the Yankees are in on all the top free agent relievers this offseason. That includes ex-Yankee Aroldis Chapman as well as Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon. They’ve even been connected to second tier relievers like Brett Cecil and Boone Logan. Clearly the bullpen is a priority this offseason. That figured to be the case as soon as Chapman and Andrew Miller were traded away at the deadline.

At this point it seems like a foregone conclusion the Yankees will end up with one of the top free agent bullpen arms. My money’s on Chapman, though Jansen or Melancon wouldn’t surprise me either. A strong and deep bullpen is a necessity nowadays with starters throwing fewer and fewer innings with each passing season, so it’s understandable why the Yankees would focus on adding a top notch bullpen arm this winter. Is it the right move at this point in time though? I think that’s up for debate. Here are both sides of the argument.

The Case For Spending Big

1. Elite talent is elite talent. This free agent class is very weak overall, so much so that the only place it offers serious depth is the bullpen. You’re not going to find a No. 1 starter or an above-average middle infielder in free agency this winter. But a dominant closer? There are several available. The bullpen is the best (only?) place to get a truly elite performer — I’m talking one of the very best players at their position — in free agency. Elite talent is elite talent. Want to sign a difference-maker? The best option is a reliever.

2. Relievers cost too much on the trade market. Did you see what the Yankees got for Chapman and Miller at the trade deadline? Lordy. Those weren’t anomalies either. Ken Giles and Craig Kimbrel were both traded for huge prospect packages as well. Even Fernando Rodney fetched a nice prospect at midseason. There is no painless way to acquire an elite reliever these days. You’re either going to have to give up a ton in a trade or spend a boatload of cash. Spending money is always preferable to trading prospects.

3. Future free agent classes are thin on top relievers. This free agent stinks overall but has some top relievers. The upcoming free agent classes are the opposite — they’re good overall but thin on bullpeners. Assuming the Red Sox pick up Kimbrel’s option, the best reliever scheduled to hit free agency next offseason is either Addison Reed or Francisco Rodriguez. The offseason after that it’s either Kimbrel or Miller — or perhaps David Robertson — depending how they age. Catch my drift? This offseason figures to be the best chance to sign a dominant closer at the top of their game for the foreseeable future.

The Case Against Spending Big

Jansen. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Jansen. (Rob Carr/Getty)

1. Long-term deals for relievers rarely work out. The history of long-term contracts for relievers — I’m talking four and five-year deals — is so very ugly that it’s impossible to ignore. There’s B.J. Ryan and Steve Karsay, Justin Speier and Scott Linebrink, Danys Baez and Brandon Lyon … on and on it goes. Here are 2014’s top ten relievers (per bWAR) with a note on their 2016 status:

  1. Wade Davis — still awesome but had an arm injury
  2. Dellin Betances — still awesome but struggled throwing strikes at times
  3. Kelvin Herrera — still awesome
  4. Jonathan Papelbon — released at midseason
  5. Jake McGee — hurt and ineffective
  6. Huston Street — hurt and ineffective
  7. Drew Storen — hurt and ineffective
  8. Joe Smith — hurt and ineffective
  9. Zach Britton — maybe the best reliever season ever
  10. Craig Kimbrel — still awesome but struggled throwing strikes at times

Yeesh. And that’s looking back only two years. Look back four years and we start seeing guys like Ryan Cook and Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Soriano among the top ten relievers in bWAR. Relievers, man. Can’t live without them, can’t count on them to hold their value long-term.

To be fair, some long-term contracts for relievers have worked out well. Mariano Rivera‘s three-year contract from 2008-10, for example. Miller’s contract is looking mighty good right now. Even Papelbon performed well during his original four-year deal with the Phillies. Generally speaking though, relievers are so damn volatile — even the very best ones — that most long-term deals come with a ton of regret.

2. It would hurt their chances of getting under the luxury tax. Like it or not, the Yankees intend to get under the luxury tax threshold at some point soon. The 2018 season seems to be their target. Signing a reliever to a big money contract — signing any player to a big money contract — hurts the team’s chances to get under the threshold. To put it another way, every dollar the Yankees spend on a reliever is a dollar they can’t spend elsewhere. This is a team with lots and lots of needs. They need long-term rotation help, first and foremost. The Yankees still have a high payroll, but it is not infinite, and spending big on a reliever might not be the best allocation of resources.

3. They’re not one reliever away from contention. The Yankees had maybe the best bullpen trio in baseball history this season. At least prior to the trade deadline. It didn’t do them a whole lot of good though because the rest of the team stunk. Great relievers usually only come into the picture after the starter and the offense do their job, and on too many occasions this year, the starter and offense didn’t do their jobs.

Signing Chapman or Jansen for huge money is something a team does when they’re ready to win because those guys are in their primes. Are the Yankees ready to win right now? I’m willing to hear both sides of the argument but I lean no right now. The timelines don’t match up. An expensive closer is pretty much the last thing a non-contender needs, and there’s a decent chance the Yankees end up a non-contender with an expensive closer in 2017 should they sign a top free agent bullpen arms.

* * *

Obvious statement is obvious: there’s never a bad time to add good players. The Yankees would be better with Chapman (or Jansen or Melancon) on their roster next year than without. I mean, duh. That said, the Yankees are going young at several positions, and it’s possible if not likely there will be growing pains. When you go young on a mass scale, things tend to get worse before they get better. Does adding a top reliever — and using relatively limited dollars to do so — to this roster make sense in the big picture? It’s a valid question. Anyway, poll time.

Should the Yankees sign one of the top free agent relievers?
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Hot Stove Notes: Jansen, Melancon, Cespedes, Bautista

Kenley. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)
Kenley. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)

Yesterday afternoon the GM Meetings wrapped up in Scottsdale and everyone headed home to really get down to offseason business. This week we learned the Yankees have already been in touch with Aroldis Chapman’s people, have some interest in Kendrys Morales, and have identified a possible trade partner for Brian McCann. Here are some more bits of news and notes from the GM Meetings.

Yankees willing to eat money to move McCann

According to Jeff Passan, the Yankees have expressed a willingness to eat up to half the $34M left on McCann’s contract to facilitate a trade. The catch: they want better young players in return. That’s usually how this works. I said yesterday I hope the Yankees are open to eating some money in exchange for a better return, and it appears they are willing to do just that. Hooray.

Yankees reached out to Jansen, Melancon

In addition to Chapman, the Yankees reached out to the representatives for both Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon this week, reports Brendan Kuty. The Yankees are said to be targeting a top free agent reliever this winter, and those two along with Chapman are by far the best available. Jansen received a qualifying offer and will cost a draft pick. Chapman and Melancon will not. They were ineligible for the qualifying offer after being traded at midseason.

There’s been some talk we could see the first $100M reliever this offseason — Jonathan Papelbon’s $50M deal with the Phillies is still the largest contract ever given to a reliever, so we’re talking about doubling that — but I don’t think that will happen. I don’t think teams are ready to commit that much to a 65-inning pitcher, even if they are 65 high-leverage innings. Andrew Miller‘s postseason usage is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Once we get further away from that and people remember relievers don’t get used like that all the time, contract expectations will change.

Yankees planning to talk to Hill

Amazingly, the best free agent starter on the market this year is journeyman southpaw Rich Hill, who reinvented himself two years ago by raising his arm angle and moving to the extreme third base side of the rubber. Brian Cashman told Kuty he intends to reach out to Hill, who pitched out of the bullpen for the Yankees in September 2014, at some point soon.

“I can’t remember if I have (reached out to him) or not. Let’s put it this way. I will be reaching out to Rich’s agent if I haven’t yet. I have a to-do list I’m working through,” said the GM. Hill will be 37 in March and he hasn’t thrown more than 120 innings since 2007, but the market is so light on starting pitching that he’s going to end up with a three-year contract. When healthy this year, Hill pitched like an ace (2.12 ERA and 2.39 FIP). The Yankees need pitching too, so checking in on the best available starter only makes sense.

Yankees have checked in on Cespedes, Bautista

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

The Yankees have reached out to free agent sluggers Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Bautista, reports Jon Heyman. Both guys would give the team some much-needed middle of the order thump, but Cashman downplayed their interest and chalked it up to due diligence. “I’m open to anything. But as of right now, we’re going to let the kids take a shot. Our current focus is to let the kids try to take the job,” he said.

Bautista and especially Cespedes are true impact bats who change the entire complexion of the lineup. The Yankees could use a hitter like that! Right now, given the team’s current situation, spending big on a corner outfield bat over 30 doesn’t seem like the best idea. If they were ready to win right now, then yes, sign one of those guys. But the Yankees aren’t. They’re right to prioritize the kids, especially with Aaron Judge arriving this past season and Clint Frazier not far behind.

Yankees in on Logan

Blast from the past: The Yankees are among the teams interested in lefty Boone Logan, according to Joel Sherman. Right now Tommy Layne is New York’s top lefty reliever, and he’s followed on the depth chart by guys like Richard Bleier and Chasen Shreve. Eh. I don’t blame the Yankees at all for looking at the bullpen lefty market. Here’s 2016 Logan vs. 2016 Layne:

IP ERA FIP AVG/OBP/SLG vs. LHB K% vs. LHB BB% vs. LHB GB% vs. LHB
Logan 46.1 3.69 3.23 .139/.222/.255 33.6% 7.6% 60.6%
Layne 44.2 3.63 3.93 .214/.310/.261 20.8% 9.9% 51.6%

The question really isn’t whether Logan is better than Layne. It’s whether Logan is better than Bleier and Shreve and James Pazos. Those guys. I don’t love the idea of carrying two lefty specialists in the bullpen, especially with a rotation that doesn’t pitch deep into games, but it is doable. My guess is Logan gets more money elsewhere and the Yankees are just kicking the tires out of due diligence.

Teams calling on Andujar

The Yankees are getting phone calls and receiving trade interest in third base prospect Miguel Andujar, reports Kuty. “I get a lot of compliments on him from other clubs, a lot of teams asking me about him. He’s going to be a big leaguer,” said Cashman. I’m guessing Andujar is not the team’s only prospect generating trade interest. The Yankees have many quality players in their system at the moment.

Andujar, 22 in March, is currently hitting .309/.400/.392 (122 wRC+) with more walks (nine) than strikeouts (seven) through 16 Arizona Fall League games. He broke out with a .270/.327/.407 (108 wRC+) batting line and 12 home runs in 137 games split between High-A and Double-A during the regular season. Andujar is the closest thing the Yankees have to a third baseman of the future, and while I certainly wouldn’t make him off-limits in trade talks, I am excited to see him take another step forward in 2017.

Heyman: Yanks planning to target a top free agent reliever

Jansen. (Jeff Gross/Getty)
Jansen. (Jeff Gross/Getty)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are planning to target one of the top free agent relievers this upcoming offseason. That means either Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen, or possibly Mark Melancon. They’re the three big names out there this winter. Heyman says the Yankees also want to bolster their rotation, though that’s not a shock. That applies to every team ever.

Anyway, this doesn’t surprise me at all. In fact, I said I expect the Yankees to pursue a top free agent reliever the day after the Chapman trade. The Yankees, like every other team, enjoy having multiple elite relievers in their bullpen. This offseason is an opportunity to add one (or two!) using nothing but cash, and the Yankees sure have a lot of that. In fact, I would be surprised if they don’t land a top reliever this winter. Here are some more thoughts on this.

1. The Yankees will have some money to spend. Let’s do some really quick and dirty math. The Yankees opened the season with a $226M payroll, or thereabouts. Carlos Beltran ($15M), Mark Teixeira ($22.5M), and Andrew Miller ($9M) will all be off the books next season. So will non-tender candidates Nathan Eovaldi ($5.6M) and Dustin Ackley ($3.2M). That’s a lot of big salaries going away.

That all adds up to $55.3M in savings, but, not counting Eovaldi and Ackley, the Yankees are facing roughly $12M in arbitration raises, so it’s really $43.3M in savings. That can buy you some great relievers, but we know the Yankees are going to want to get under the luxury tax threshold, whatever it may be. We’ll find out in a few weeks once the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is finalized. Hopefully it’s north of $200M.

Assuming the new threshold is right around $200M, the Yankees will have about $18M to spend this offseason based on my back of the envelope math. That’s enough to give Chapman or Jansen the highest annual salary for a reliever in history, though there wouldn’t be much left over. For what it’s worth, Hal Steinbrenner recently told Joel Sherman he doesn’t anticipate getting under the luxury tax threshold until 2018. We’ll see.

2. Chapman and Melancon won’t cost a pick. Because they were traded at midseason, neither Chapman nor Melancon are eligible for the qualifying offer. They won’t cost anything other than a money. Jansen is going to get the qualifying offer, so teams will have to forfeit their first round pick to sign him. That assumes the new CBA doesn’t eliminate the qualifying offer system. I don’t think it will.

Chapman. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)
Chapman. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)

In a vacuum, giving up a draft pick to sign Jansen isn’t a big deal. He’s an elite player and a stupid little draft pick shouldn’t stand in the way of acquiring a player of his caliber. He’s a difference maker. This isn’t a vacuum though. Chapman and Melancon are excellent pitchers themselves. Why give up the pick for Jansen when you can sign a comparable reliever and keep your first round pick? I can definitely see Chapman and Melancon generating a ton of interest early in the offseason as teams try to nab a top reliever and keep their top pick.

3. Signing a top reliever doesn’t fix everything. Adding a great reliever to the bullpen is always a good thing. There’s not a team in baseball that wouldn’t benefit from signing one of these guys. The Yankees are not one reliever away though. Heck, just this season the Yankees had arguably the best 7-8-9 combination in the history of baseball, and it didn’t help them much because the offense stunk and the rotation was spotty.

The Yankees should sign one of those great free agent relievers because they have the money, they have the need, and because guys like that are unbelievably valuable in the postseason, which is where the Yankees ultimately want to go. They still need to address the offense and the rotation, however. And even the middle relief too. As long as signing a top reliever is just one move this offseason and not the move, the Yankees should be all-in on this free agent bullpen class.

4. Signing a free agent reliever doesn’t mean the trades were a mistake. With both Chapman and Miller helping their new teams to the League Championship Series, I’ve seen more than a few folks suggest trading one or both away was a mistake. No. Just, no. The Yankees were going nowhere at midseason and there was little reason to believe they’d climb back into the race in August and September.

Both Chapman and Miller were traded for monster prospect packages. We’re talking three top 100 caliber guys plus several more pieces. And Adam Warren too. He’s cool. The bullpen trade market was outrageous and the Yankees would have been foolish not to take advantage, especially given the free agent class. The Yankees finished five games back of the second wildcard spot. Dellin Betances struggled late in the season, but not enough that keeping Chapman and/or Miller would have been worth it. Trading those guys was 100% the right move. Zero questions asked. That they can sign a replacement elite reliever(s) this winter is gravy.

Checking in on Mark Melancon

Twelve months ago, righty reliever Mark Melancon was the sixth best prospect in the Yankees’ farm system (in my opinion, anyway). He had always dominated the minors with a low-90’s fastball and a hammer curveball, but struggled in his various stints with the big league team. In 15 career appearances with the Yankees, he allowed 20 hits and uncharacteristically walked ten in 20.1 IP, allowing 13 runs. Team officials were “always perplexed” by Melancon according to Buster Olney, because his strike-throwing ways never carried over into the big leagues.

The Yankees traded Melancon to Houston at the deadline as part of the Lance Berkman swap last summer, after he’d walked 31 in 56.1 IP at Triple-A. His control issues followed him back to Scranton, but Melancon has thrived in his short time with the Astros though, striking out 28 and walking just nine in 25.1 IP. He’s allowed just four hits and a walk in eight scoreless innings this year, striking out nine with a ground ball rate near 70%. For whatever reason, it just didn’t work in New York, but the Yankees didn’t exactly give Melancon the biggest of leashes either. They had some relief depth and used it to fill another hole. It’s the kind of move you expect a contender to make.

Mailbag: Traded Prospects

Here’s a special one-question edition of the RAB Mailbag, but don’t worry, we’ll definitely get to some more throughout the course of the week.

Hey! Since many, many moves were made both prior to the season and during the season concerning movement of prospects, it doesn’t seem to have affected the farm system too much. Contrary to this, the farm system as a whole seems to have taken a giant leap forward, especially with the development of our young pitching corps. But I still wonder, how much better (in terms of subjective quality or actual ‘ranking’) would our farm system be if we still had all the players pre Javy-trade.

The Yankees have made several trades involving prospects over the last twelve months, most notably for Curtis Granderson, Javy Vazquez, Boone Logan, Lance Berkman, and Austin Kearns. As far as we know right now, the Kerry Wood trade only involves money. Here are the prospects that were dealt away in those moves, in no particular order: Austin Jackson, Arodys Vizcaino, Mike Dunn, Mark Melancon, Jimmy Paredes, and Zach McAllister. Ian Kennedy surpassed the rookie limit of 50 big league innings back in 2008, so technically he wasn’t a prospect at the time of the trade.

The best overall prospect with the highest long-term value traded away is Vizcaino, who posted a 2.22 FIP (2.74 ERA) in 85.1 innings split between Low-A and High-A this season before being shut down with a small ligament tear in his elbow that did not require Tommy John surgery. During one stretch from early-May to mid-June, he went 44 innings between issuing a walk. Baseball America ranked him the sixth best prospect in the South Atlantic League two weeks ago, saying he “shows a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96, a hammer curveball and excellent control … [h]is changeup continues to improve and could give him a third plus pitch.” It’s a frontline starter package, for sure. If he was still with the Yanks, he’d almost certainly be their top pitching prospect if healthy, but I’d probably dock him a bit for the injury and the uncertainty it brings. For sure, The Killer B’s (Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Brackman) would have another running mate, so perhaps we’d be calling them The Killer B’s Plus V.

The best immediate impact guy they traded was Jackson by far. He had a 3.6 fWAR season for the Tigers thanks to a slightly above average .333 wOBA combined with a strong +4.2 UZR in center. I have a hard time believing that Jackson would have made the Yanks out of Spring Training had the trade never gone down, simply because a starting outfield of Jackson, Brett Gardner, and Nick Swisher would have been very questionable back in April. He likely would have returned to Triple-A for at least a few weeks, and the Yanks would have brought in another outfielder, probably Johnny Damon now that I think about it. If he was still a Yankee prospect, he’d be their second best position player prospect behind Jesus Montero, but he’d only be in the middle of their top ten prospects behind Montero and The Killer B’s.

The other four guys were all second tier prospects with similar value. Melancon is  the best of the bunch as an MLB-ready strikeout reliever, and sure enough he pitched to a 3.19 FIP (3.12 ERA) with 9.87 K/9 and 4.15 BB/9 in 17.1 innings for Houston after the trade, good for 0.3 fWAR. Dunn spent most of the season in Triple-A but came up late in the year to post a 3.60 FIP (1.89 ERA) in 19 innings for the Braves, though his impressive 12.79 K/9 came with a hideous 8.05 BB/9. Paredes was one of the system’s better sleepers, a slick fielding middle infielder with some pop (.130 ISO this year) and lots of speed (50 steals, 82.0% success rate).

McAllister took a big step back before the trade, getting surpassed by several of the higher upside arms in the system throughout the summer. Before the trade he posted a 4.73 FIP (5.03) in 132.1 Triple-A innings after never having an FIP higher than 3.26 at any level in any season of his career. He also become exceptionally homer prone, giving up 19 in 24 starts after surrendering just 17 in the first 74 outings of his career. The numbers after the trade are from too small a sample to draw any conclusions from (4.08 FIP, 6.88 ERA, 17 IP).

There’s no question that the Yanks’ system would be considerably stronger had all of those trades never gone down, and that’s mostly thanks to Jackson and Vizcaino. Melancon and Dunn are solid depth pieces, Paredes and interesting low-level guy, but frankly McAllister had no place on a team like the Yankees and trade bait was almost certainly his ultimate future one way or the other. The Yanks certainly have a top ten system right now, but if you add a high upside arm like Arodys and a solid everyday centerfielder in Jackson (thanks to the benefit of hindsight, of course), it jumps into the top five, maybe even top three. Their depth would be improved greatly, and the cache of arms would be even deeper. For fun, here’s a rough top list of the ten best Yankee prospects had those trades never gone down…

  1. Jesus Montero
  2. Arodys Vizcaino
  3. Manny Banuelos
  4. Andrew Brackman
  5. Dellin Betances
  6. Austin Jackson
  7. Gary Sanchez
  8. Austin Romine
  9. Slade Heathcott
  10. Hector Noesi

Quibble about the order if you want, but the names are generally correct. No matter how you slice it, that’s a monster top ten.

Remember, prospects serve two purposes: the plug into the big league roster and trades. They were able to trade Vizcaino because of all the other high-upside arms they had in-house, and the reason they were able to acquire a power hitting centerfield with top notch defense like Granderson is because they had someone like Jackson to deal away. The other guys are just the cost of doing business, potentially useful pieces for almost certainly useful pieces. The farm system would be stronger with them, no doubt, but the big league team is stronger because they traded away, and that’s what matters.

Photo Credits: Jackson with the Honolulu Sharks of Hawaii Winter Baseball in 2007 via Kyle Galdeira, Jackson with the Tigers in 2010 via Mark Duncan, AP.

Linkage: Aceves, Melancon, A-Rod, Triple-A

Let’s round up a few afternoon links…

Aceves Begins Rehab Tonight

At long last, Al Aceves is going to begin his rehab assignment tonight as he tries to come back from the bulging disc that’s had him on the shelf since May. He is scheduled to start for Triple-A Scranton, and will throw just one inning, pretty standard stuff. Assuming that goes well, he’ll presumably make a few more appearances and get stretched out to something like 50-60 pitches. Hopefully he stays healthy and can contribute down the stretch, but I’m not counting on it. Back problems are tricky.

Melancon Gets The Call

A little over a week after the Yanks sent him to the Astros as part of the Lance Berkman deal, Mark Melancon was summoned to the big leagues for what I believe will be his fourth stint. He told Alyson Footer that the Yanks wanted him to get the ball down in the zone more, so he ended up changing him arm slot which led to his struggles in Triple-A this year. My first reaction was that this is a cop out, but it certainly sounds legit. Either way, I wish him the best.

A-Rod‘s First Big Contract

Believe it or not, there was once a time when Alex Rodriguez was underpaid. That was quite a long time ago, when he was a 20-year-old behemoth hitting .357/.414/.631 with 54 doubles, 36 homers, and 15 steals. R.J. Anderson at FanGraphs recapped A-Rod’s first big payday, a four contract that bought out some of his arbitration eligible seasons for just $10.6M, which is what the Yanks’ paid him for their first 54 games of the season.

Overlooked Players In Triple-A

Baseball America posted an article today on players that are being overlooked at the Triple-A level (sub. req’d), and naturally a few Yankee farmhands are mentioned. “He’s a very athletic-looking shortstop,” said Triple-A Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh of Eduardo Nunez. “I saw him early in the year and really liked him. I saw him last year (in Double-A), too, and really liked the way he played the game.” Even though he’s noted for his ability to make solid contact, the article acknowledges that Nunez will provide almost all of his value through his speed (77% stolen base success rate the last two years) and defense (though his TotalZone scores are consistently negative).

Reegie Corona, who is out for the rest of the year after breaking his arm in a collision a week or so ago, also gets a mention. “[I]n the end he doesn’t have the bat to profile as even a reserve big leaguer.” That sounds promising.

Anyway, let’s wrap up with a video of a guy ducking out of the way while his girlfriend gets hit with a foul ball. He must have been making sure his hat had the proper 60-degree reverse tilt.

CHoP and the 2nd Inning

Photo credit: Charles Krupa/ AP

A lot of folks have pondered Girardi’s decision to continue to use Chan Ho Park in multiple inning situations, if use him at all. They point to his pitch count numbers as evidence of his struggles.In pitches 1-25 Park is kinda-almost-somewhat tolerable as a pitcher, hoisting up a .308/.341/.500 line. That’s basically Ryan Howard’s triple slash for the season (plus or minus a few points on average and OBP). On pitches 26-50, it becomes hide-the-children bad. Park has been tagged for a line of .368/.429/.842(!). If the first line is Ryan Howard, the second is Barry Bonds hitting batting practice in 2004. There’s been absolutely no question that the Korean native has struggled tremendously in his first (and likely last) season in pinstripes. But has he really epically collapsed in the second frame of every game he jumps in?

Yes and no. I’ve already looked at this at my own site, so take let’s look appearance-by-appearance.

*On April 7th, game 2, Park went three innings against the Red Sox. Although I recall there being quite a few deep flies, he gave up but one hit, in his 3rd inning. No runs were scored in total.

*April 13th versus Angels: Breezed through the first inning of work but gave up a monstrous shot to Kendry Morales in the 8th. No runs in his first inning. One run in his second inning.

*On May 20th, the Yanks took on the Rays. Struggling 1B Carlos Pena took Park deep in his first inning pitched. This is after he was almost burned by a deep line drive to RF by Ben Zobrist, which Swisher caught. Not a good first inning. His second inning against 7-8-9 batters went much more smoothly – he gave up a single to “Did You Know He Was An All-Star?” Dioner Navarro, but that was all. To recap, one run in his first inning. Zero runs in subsequent inning.

*On May 22nd, Park replaced Phil Hughes with after Alex Cora knocked him out of the game (?!). Park immediately gave up a single and then got a groundout to end the inning. Not terrible, but not a shutdown either. His next inning saw him give up a single and a double to score a run. No runs in first inning, one run in his second.

*Park faced the Indians on May 31st. His first inning started with a strikeout and ended with two weak groundouts. Nice, not bad! The second inning though featured 2 hits and a walk, which led to run. No runs in first inning, one run in second.

Ok, we may be on to something here. In three of his five early season multiple-inning games, Park has given up a run in the second inning. Of course, when looking more critically through the first innings of these outings, it’s not like Park was brilliant, either. He had some good fortune (and was hit around a bit in Tampa) and then it appears the hitters took note of Park and knocked him around his second frame. Let’s see if it becomes a pattern.

*In an extra-innings game at Skydome The Rogers Centre on June 5th, Park came in and issued one walk but also struck one out and received two weak groundball outs in his first IP. The second inning featured two strikeouts, a single and one walk. No runs issued.

*Of course, in last week’s game in Arizona CHoP got lit up. He came into the game in the 7th and did fairly well. It was surprisingly tranquil. Then, in the 9th, he gave up two singles and then a monster home run to Justin Upton. No runs in his first inning. 3 runs in his second inning.

*Last night looked to be the same old story. Park came in and pitched a quick 6th inning (one walk, one groundout, one fly out). Girardi sent him out for the 7th. His performance sealed the game for the Dodgers. Two singles and a double by Matt Kemp finally put the Yankees in the outhouse. Zero runs score in his first inning, two trot around in his second.

So if we add up our tally here, in his first inning of multiple-inning games, Park has given up one run in his first inning pitched and 8 in his second frame. That’s a drastic difference.

So now you’re thinking, “Damn, CHoP’s done pretty well in just the first inning, all things considered. Maybe we can salvage him if Girardi stops throwing him back out there for multiple innings,” right?

Not so fast.

Why? Well, more sobering statistics: in games he’s only pitched one total inning or less, he’s given up 10 runs in 6 2/3rds innings. Park may be significantly worse in the second inning of his appearances, but he’s not an effective pitcher to begin with. Remember, the average hitter facing Park in the first inning is still Ryan Howard.

Should he be given a shot? (Photo credit: Nick Laham/Getty)

I’ve backed Chan Ho this whole year. Constantly I’ve said, “Don’t worry, he’ll turn it around. He has good stuff, this is just a rough patch.” No longer. We’re on the cusp of July and Park has been worth -2.5 runs below replacement. All the while, some pitchers in AAA are turning in good results and could certainly better Park’s performance on the year. At this point, I see no reason to not spell Chan Ho Park “DFA” and bring up a Romulo, Albaladejo, Nova or Melancon. The experiment didn’t work. It’s time to scrap it and call it a sunk cost.

Personally, I’d prefer to keep Nova in AAA to stay stretched out in the event we need a starting pitcher to come up. It would be nice to have a guy that can go multiple innings if need be, considering that right now, with injuries, it’s just Chad Gaudin. This probably means no Albie. So we’re left with Melancon or Romulo Sanchez. I like Romulo’s stuff and the fact that he can spot start or at the very least go multiple innings one way or another. But I worry that his control will be erratic considering that he’s thrown 5 or more walks in three of his last eight starts.

This means —at least in my world— Mark Melancon is my de-facto choice to replace Chan Ho should he be DFA’d. Melancon likely has the biggest upside of the pitchers in AAA, has been in The Show before, can go multiple innings and has been just curtains for opponents lately. He hasn’t given up a run since June 6th, though I’d prefer a better K/BB ratio in that time (2:1).

One way or another, something has to change. Simply put, if the team is not going to DFA Park, Girardi needs to put him in situations where his impact on a game is minimal. This means mop-up work in one frame or less.