The deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players is December 12, just a few weeks away. The Yankees will have decisions to make on a few players, including Melky Cabrera, Brian Bruney, Chad Gaudin, and Sergio Mitre. Chances are the Yankees will offer arbitration to all four, though I still think there’s a chance they’ll non-tender Bruney. The biggest decision they face, though, is on Chien-Ming Wang. The Taiwanese righty might have already thrown his last pitch in pinstripes.
We learn this morning, via MLBTR, that Wang would consider pitching for the Dodgers. Really, he’ll probably consider pitching for all 30 teams, but the Dodgers have a comfort factor. Wang, always described as shy, would have not only two familiar coaches in Joe Torre and Larry Bowa (Don Mattingly, too), but he’d also have former schoolmate Hong-Chih Kuo. In picking his 2010 team, that will probably play a part for Wang.
Just because there’s a connection, of course, doesn’t mean that Wang is ready to don Dodger blue. If the Yankees do non-tender him, and the prevailing opinion in the NYC media is that they will, Wang and his agent Alan Nero will seek the best possible deal. Familiarity might help in that regard, making the Dodgers a strong possibility. And there’s no ruling out Wang re-signing with New York.
I’ve read opinions that the Yankees have mistreated Wang, though I don’t exactly buy that. They didn’t offer him a long-term deal, instead taking him to arbitration over $600,000 in 2008. It was a wise move by the Yankees. Wang, as we know, had two shoulder injuries before 2008, and the Yankees were proceeding with caution. The team and player then acted quickly last off-season, signing a one-year, $5 million deal before Christmas. Wang’s season-ending injury certainly had something to do with that.
It’s hard to see signs of disrespect in that. Not every pitcher gets a long-term deal from his original club. Some teams prefer to take that route, as the Giants did with Matt Cain. Others like to proceed with caution, especially with pitchers who have an injury history. Such has been the Yankees’ dealing with Wang. Now they’ll have another set of negotiations with Wang, presumably over a lesser contract that will bring him back for 2010.
Most of us, I think, would like to see Chien-Ming Wang back in pinstripes next season. We’ve seen him at his best, and if he can return to that level, or something near it, he can fortify the Yankees’ rotation mid-season. The Yankees have many factors to weigh in this decision, including the cost of keeping Wang around, weighed against the risk that he’ll fail. It’s doubtful Wang makes more than $6 million next season in arbitration, and my guess is that if the Yankees do tender him a contract that they’ll work out a one-year deal before the February arbitration hearings.
I think the Yankees have little to lose by offering Wang arbitration. That ensures that if he does return to form, it will be to the Yankees’ benefit. It’s essentially a $6 million bet on his health, though, and without his medicals in hand it’s impossible to make that decision. The Yankees have seen them, or else will see them. I trust they’ll make the right call.