It has been an offseason of measured, calculated, and cost-effective moves for the New York Yankees. General manager Brian
Cashman, sticking to the approach he used to construct 2009's championship team, has continued his philosophy of team-building into the 2010 offseason. While marquee names like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and John Lackey all changed uniforms (whereas Matt Holliday didn't), the Yankees were largely absent from the bidding and negotiating on the high-priced end of the free agent market spectrum.
Instead, Cashman has meticulously filled holes and added depth to his roster, sealing the minor cracks in the mosaic that is his defending World Series Championship team. The centerpiece move was the trade for Curtis Granderson, but the Yankees also addressed their weaknesses and added depth, specifically with the acquisitions of Javier Vazquez, Marcus Thames, Nick Johnson, and Randy Winn.
Winn and Thames will complement Granderson, Brett Gardner, and Nick Swisher in the outfield, giving Girardi options to play matchups and/or possibly setup a platoon situation (especially if Granderson still can't hit lefties). With Vazquez, the Yankees went a long way in shoring up their rotation, adding a highly effective hurler that could easily prove to be the best fourth starter in baseball. And with Johnson, the Yankees have brought home a truly professional hitter who gets on base as well as anyone in baseball to serve as their two-hole hitter, DH, and backup first basemen.
So as February winds down and the pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Florida and Arizona, the only area not addressed was the Yankees bullpen. On Sunday, Brian Cashman rectified that with the signing of former-Phillies starter-turned-reliever Chan Ho Park. Once thought to be finished as an effective pitcher, Park reinvented himself last season as a reliever for the NL champion Phillies. After getting beaten and battered as a starter, Park embraced his "demotion" to the bullpen, recaptured his mid-90s fastball, and proved highly effective for Philadelphia as a middle reliever.
Park's 2009 splits:
Seven starts: 33.1 IP, 7.29 ERA, 41 hits, 17 BBs, 21 Ks
37 relief appearances: 49 IP, 2.57 ERA, 43 hits, 16 BBs, 52 Ks
It is more than evident from these stats that Park was unable to maintain his best stuff over the course of an entire game. Whether he was consciously holding back or tiring as the games went on (reports have stated the former), Park's strikeout ratio shows his potential value as a reliever. Throw in his improved BB/9 and H/9 ratios, and Park could foreseeably be a candidate to fill a setup role on many major league teams.
But the Yankees won't ask a lot of Chan Ho Park. Their already crowded bullpen includes the best closer in baseball, Mariano Rivera (yes, even at 40) and either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain as a dominant setup man (while the other will likely serve as the fifth starter). The Yankees also have quality middle relief with Alfredo Aceves, Jonathan Albaladejo, David Robertson, Damaso Marte, and Edwar Ramirez, giving New York a mix of youth and experience that proved effective enough in 2009, although each had their rough patches as well.
But with Park, the Yankees obtain a veteran arm that still has quite a bit of pop left in it when used in relatively short bursts. While the rigors of pitching in the NL East hardly equate to the bombastic offenses in the AL East, if Park can come close to matching his 2009 performance, he will solidify a unit wrought with uncertainty, despite the wealth of potential.
The signing of Park is not the typical Yankees' nuclear bomb that will make the sports world stand up and take notice. But for a one year commitment at $1.2 million (plus incentives), Park is a bargain for New York that could add, at the very least, three to four wins to their season. And should Park revert back to his previous, dead-armed, hittable self, his contract is barely a drop in the bucket for even the "smallest" of small-market teams.
Yankee fans, bored by an offseason of professional NBA Jam, ice-soccer, and whatever-the-hell the Olympics have become, may have enjoyed seeing players like Roger Clemens, David Justice, or Denny Neagle, even in offseasons following a championship. But those same restless fans will no doubt appreciate the contributions of guys like Johnson, Winn, and now Chan Ho Park, far more than they ever did the performances of those aforementioned high-priced flops.