The Twins, in many ways, made their most significant executed decision today. They signed reliever Matt Belisle yesterday to help shore up an extremely leaky bullpen, and to create space, they dropped Byung-Ho Park from the 40 man roster. Let’s take a look at each component for what they are worth.
The first move was the signing of the former Red, Rockie, Cardinal and National, Belisle. He started in Cincinnati as a starter before moving to the bullpen and excelling, somehow, with the Rockies and then in his one year with Washington. My most distinct memory is of Belisle as a starter, where he wasn’t very good, but his stuff worked, for the most part, in Colorado, St. Louis and Washington, though with diminishing returns in Colorado. That type of thing happens. There is a reason Belisle was given a Major League Deal: He has been fairly successful, and been successful recently.
Belisle’s game is that of a pitcher well served by short outings. He manages to induce a lot of ground balls, and gives up a surprisingly low number of home runs given the amount of contact batters make off of him. Fangraphs’ projections have his 201 ERA somewhere around 4.30, but that hinges on an expected HR/9 of 1.04, which is more than any season since 2009, his first in Colorado. He won’t have a 1.76 ERA like he did in Washington, but assuming he is well managed, he should manage to pitch to a number well below 4.00. If he spends too much time in games, he won’t fool his American League opponents for too long, and that home run total is sure to climb.
There was initial shock upon finding out that the roster spot to add Belisle was created by designating Byung-Ho Park for assignment. The longer I think about this, the more comfortable I am with the move. In fact, I think it was a shrewd, calculated risk. Consider what Park has proven himself to be so far. Someone who will strike out a ton, hit for low average and every once in a while, hit a mammoth home run. He will make 3 million dollars next season, which is about 6 times as much as Kennys Vargas, who is still pre-arb.
Vargas strikes out a lot too, but he also walks more than Park, and hits line drives even when he doesn’t homer. He was a better option at the plate last season, and is younger and less expensive. All that said, why was Park dropped from the 40 man roster, instead of someone like Danny Santana, who gives everyone, even Santana himself, anxiety? It’s because no matter what happens, the Twins will end up with a good outcome with Park off the roster.
There is very little chance that Park gets plucked off the waiver wire before he can be outrighted to Rochester. Not only is there Vargas who looks a lot like Park, but there is also Chris Carter and Mike Napoli out there, who haven’t been able to find a home. If Park does leave, then, assuming they still wanted a big bat on the roster, they could use the money to sign someone like Carter, and perhaps even give him the three years they had allocated for Park. Or, they can just use the money on other positions and use Vargas, who might be better than either Carter or Park next year.
On it’s face, this seems to be a particularly unusual maneuver, but the more I think about it, the more it shows that we need to challenge our perceptions under this new regime.