Chan Ho Plays Waiting Game, Loses

Early in the off-season, the Phillies offered Chan Ho Park a one-year, $3 million deal to pitch exclusively out of the bullpen. Park is represented by super agent Scott Boras [EDIT: No he’s not; he’s represented by Jeff Borris, whose last name sounds the same], so it was no surprise when the Phils’ offer was turned down. Park wanted to start and he thought he could get more money elsewhere.

[Cue the cliche “pages flying off of a page-a-day calendar”]

As the winter grew older, the phones of Park and Boras Borris stayed silent. The Phillies did not increase their offer or give him an incentive to re-sign by promising him the chance to win the #5 spot. Instead, the Phillies moved on and signed another pitcher in Park’s mold in Jose Contreras for one year and $1.5 million.

The Phillies were right to do so. Park hasn’t pitched effectively as a starter since 2001, the end of his first stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers. During his second stint, in ’08, the Dodgers used him as a reliever with great success. Park put up a 3.84 ERA in over 70 innings of work. Last year, after a horrible seven starts to open the season, the Phillies moved him back to the bullpen where he compiled a 2.52 ERA in 50 innings.

Park’s waiting game did not pay off. After generating just a faint buzz of interest, the Chicago Cubs pondered adding him to their revamped roster, even offering him the chance to start. The New York Yankees threw their hat in the ring, sans a promise to pitch out of the back of the starting rotation, and won the bidding war.

Yankees and Cubs… bidding war… Scott Boras… how much money is Chan Ho swimming in now?

$1.2 million, with an additional $300,000 available in incentives.

That would be $1.5-1.8 million less than the Phillies’ initial offer this winter, and Park won’t even be realizing his dream of starting again.

“I have chosen the Yankees,” Park said. “A prestigious team that can advance to the World Series again.”

For the second straight year, Park has signed with the defending World Series champions. Cue Dash Treyhorn of The Fightins:

Does he realize that he doesn’t get grandfathered in to the championship team?

Park is yet another example of why the waiting game, in this economy, isn’t beneficial. The following table shows the types of free agent contracts signed this off-season.

Pitchers % Hitters %
1 Year 12 71% 30 71%
2 Year 2 12% 7 17%
3 Year 2 12% 2 5%
4+ Year 1 6% 3 7%
TOTAL 17 42

Of the 59 total contracts signed, 42 have been one-year deals. Clearly the economy along with a shift in philosophy has contributed to lesser players finding themselves unable to strike gold in the free agent market.

After Matt Holliday and Jason Bay signed their multi-year deals on January 5, the largest free agent contract signed was that of Ben Sheets for one year and $10 million with the Oakland Athletics. Joel Pineiro was the only one, out of 26 players, to sign a multi-year deal in that span of time.

Once again, GM Ruben Amaro is vindicated by the market. Many of us Phillies fans were hoping he would simply bite the bullet and sign Chan Ho Park for $4-5 million, money the Phillies simply couldn’t afford with their self-imposed $140 million payroll benchmark. If Amaro had listened to us, he would have overpaid by three to four times what Park eventually signed for with the Yankees. In the meantime, he signed a pitcher with a similar skillset and more upside in Jose Contreras.

Well played, Rube.

Leave a Reply



  1. Dan

    February 22, 2010 09:29 AM

    One could argue that they could have outwaited Park and signed him for our initial $3MM offer, but then we wouldn’t have certainty of a RH reliever, so you really can’t blame Ruben for not doing so. All in all, he played it well.

  2. Kevin from Macho Row

    February 22, 2010 09:53 AM

    I really have to wonder what the thought process was for Park. He did pitch well against the Yankees in the World Series but he clearly left a bunch of money on the table. Should be interesting to see how he fits in up in the Bronx.

  3. nick

    February 22, 2010 09:58 AM

    good, fuck him

  4. GrandSlamSingle

    February 22, 2010 10:49 AM

    Yeah, I found that kind of amusing.

  5. JRVJ

    February 22, 2010 11:54 AM


    At the money Park is getting, don’t you think that the Phillies should have tried to bring in BOTH Park and Contreras?

    What I am wondering is if the Phillies cut off contact with Park, which would have been a pity, because for $1.2MM (plus incentives), he would have been a nice way to round out the bullpen.

  6. Bill Baer

    February 22, 2010 11:59 AM

    JRVJ, the Phillies are at about $138 million according to Cot’s Contracts, so theoretically another $1.5 million would have them close to that $140 million benchmark.

    However, this would leave the Phillies with absolutely no flexibility at the trading deadline. If they wanted to improve the roster via trade, they couldn’t take on salary without dumping it elsewhere.

  7. JRVJ

    February 22, 2010 12:30 PM

    Not necessarily: the $300K in bonuses are conditional on actually achieving those landmarks.

    And Park would not really cost $1.2MM prior to his meeting his bonuses or not.

    He’d cost $1.2MM MINUS the league minimum for another player (assuming Park’s replacing a league minimum player), which averages out to $800K.

    Yes, the Phils may need flexibility later this year, but it’s hard for me to see how they would have significantly less flexibility by adding $800K NOW.

  8. JRVJ

    February 22, 2010 12:31 PM

    Sorry, achieving those milestones, not landmarks (brain cramp, I guess).

  9. Undocorkscrew

    February 22, 2010 01:07 PM

    Even with Parks little success as a starter lately, I fail to see how Contreras has more of an upside than a guy who had a 2.52 ERA in 50 innings and was arguably the best reliever the Phillies had in 2009. I mean, he’s probably a better option to start(although, not much of an upgrade), but he’s not a better option in the pen.

  10. Phillies Red

    February 22, 2010 01:13 PM

    Bill, how does Contreras have more upside than Park? They seem about the same to me, upside-wise, and Park now has a two year history on which to judge him. I’m not sure the Phils were in a situation to wait out Park, but as far as the pen is concerned, I’d rather Chan Ho and his track record than Contreras and his, well, whatever it is that he has.

    The only way I can see Contreras having more upside is if the Phils decide to start him and he maintains his FIP from the last two years of around 4.1-4.2. But then, unless Lidge, Madson, and Baes are all sharp, who picks up Contreras’ innings? Kendrick?

  11. Bill Baer

    February 22, 2010 01:51 PM

    Park’s success as a reliever had a lot to do with the fact that he had an unsustainable HR/FB rate — 0%. That had a role in his LOB% being 5% lower than his career average, even including his performances as a starter for the Phillies early in 2009.

    Meanwhile, Jose Contreras improved his K/9 rate by nearly two batters from 2008 to ’09. Looking at his BABIP (.325) and HR/FB (9%) we don’t see anything that favors him, which leads us to believe that his 5% difference in LOB% last year compared to his career average is more influenced by his skill than by luck.

    Going forward, I would bet on Park and Contreras performing similarly as relievers. They have similar batted ball splits and K:BB ratios, but Park is likely to regress while Contreras is not. The only issues I have with Contreras are his age/injury history and his increasing walk rate.

  12. Phillies Red

    February 22, 2010 03:10 PM

    Yes, I think this analysis is correct. Contreras signed a very similar contract and both can be expected to perform at about the same rate, going on recent numbers. That’s why I was a little confused by your closing statement. Then again, we ought to define upside before getting any deeper into the issue.

    Aside from Chan Ho totally blowing $2M, and the Yankees getting a potentially solid bullpen piece, the only other thing that sticks out to me about this signing is: what was going on with Danys Baez? How did this guy manage to get more money and more years than either of these guys who look to be better than him? I haven’t looked through old posts for your take on this, but any insight would be appreciated.

  13. Bill Baer

    February 22, 2010 03:31 PM

    Simply put, I think Charlie Manuel’s prior experience with Baez in Cleveland had a lot to do with that signing.

    I don’t like the signing of Baez. His K/9 rates have been too low, had inconsistent BB/9 rates, benefited from abnormally low BABIP, and is too HR prone. I’d much rather have given Chopper Baez’s money.

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