When the Yankees nailed down Chien-Ming Wang’s first win of 2009, the team breathed a collective sigh of relief. The psychological benefits alone for a pitcher who, two months ago, was 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA in six innings, are immense, and the Yankees need their cost-controlled sinker ball specialist, once among the game’s best pitchers to rediscover his form.
Since returning from the disabled list in late May, Wang has looked better than he did in April. Over eight games, five starts, he has thrown 30.2 innings and is 1-3 with a 5.28 ERA. As we’re used to seeing Wang twirling over six innings a start to the tune of a sub-4.00 ERA, that’s still not quite up to par for the Taiwanese hurler, but instead of looking epically bad, it resembles a rough patch. We generally wouldn’t worry about a rough patch.
When push comes to shove this season, Wang’s final numbers won’t look pretty. His ERA stands at 10.06 through the first three months of the season. If Wang makes his final 17 starts and averages six innings per start, he will have to pitch to an ERA of 2.38 just to get his season mark to 4.50. I don’t think anyone expects that.
Yet, despite these inflated numbers, Wang is still attracting interest from other teams. Today’s rumor du jour comes to us via the Daily Dish. Per the rumors site, Jim Salisbury of The Philadelphia Inquirer noted yesterday that the Phillies have been scouting Wang. The pitching-starved defending World Champs need some arms, and as Salisbury reasons, the Yanks, with Phil Hughes waiting in the wings, could opt to trade Wang.
While it’s awfully flattering of the Phillies to look, chances are close to nil that the Yanks would trade Wang this year. First, while the Yankees have long been reluctant to give Wang a long-term deal, his value is at an all-time low. He is coming off of a bad foot injury and a three-month winless bout of ineffectiveness. His sinker isn’t quite doing what it needs to be doing, and he’s still getting his legs under him. The Yanks could probably land something decent for Wang, but nothing the Phillies would be willing right now to offer could replace Wang’s potential.
Furthermore, Wang is still a big part of the Yanks’ plans. By most accounts, this will be Andy Pettitte’s last year in pinstripes. The Yanks have the younger pieces waiting in the wings to supplant Pettitte, and to do that, they will rely on Wang to anchor the middle of the rotation. Right now, the Yanks view the 2010 rotation as featuring CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Wang, Joba Chamberlain and Hughes. They won’t give up on Wang, cost-controlled through the end of 2011 and with a good track record, so easily.
Of course, in the end, everyone has a price. If the Phillies make the right offer, they could probably land Wang. But I wouldn’t read much into this. Ruben Amaro, the Philadelphia GM, is simply doing his due diligence on a potential acquisition, but the Yanks won’t give up on this one so easily.