Archive for Chien-Ming Wang
With Cliff Lee officially a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Yankees are left trying to salvage their offseason by spreading their money around and shoring up several aspects of their team. There simply aren’t any other high-end starters on the market to go after. The process started with the now completed Russell Martin signing, and today Joel Sherman reported the Yanks will “try to pluck a veteran starter with good stuff but questionable health (off the free agent market) and have him pitch as long and as hard as he can, basically until his arm blows up or a better option comes along.
Those kinds of pitchers are always plentiful on the free agent market, and they’re popular targets in the blogosphere because we dream of them being healthy and returning to what they once were. With Lee off the market and not in New York, it’s inevitable that we’ll have to look at some of these guys as potential targets, so let’s get it out of the way now. I’m going to do something a little different though, instead of actively campaigning for one or two players I’m just going to state the facts and let you decide who’s worth the gamble. Talk about ‘em in the comments…
Francis is kind of the exception here because he isn’t actually coming off an injury. After missing the entire 2009 season due to shoulder surgery, the 29-year-old lefty did manage to make 19 starts (and one relief appearance) while pitching to a 3.88 FIP in 104.1 innings for the Rockies in 2010. His ERA was ugly (5.00), but we all know that isn’t the best way to judge performance. Francis is a generic soft-tossing command lefty, spotting a fastball, changeup, and curveball on the corners of the plate. He misses just enough bats (8.4% swing-and-miss rate, 5.8 K/9 since 2008) and doesn’t walk many guys (2.6 BB/9 career, removing intentional walks), and he also gets a pretty nice amount of ground balls (~45% over the last few years) as well. Francis’ margin for error is small, but the track record is there.
The one-time Red Sox whipping boy made nine highly effective starts (3.40 ERA, 1.1 fWAR) for the Cardinals this year before a shoulder strain ended his season. Penny is a known quantity at this point; he’s struck out a touch more than five-and-a-half batters per nine innings over the last four seasons (~7% swings-and-misses) despite having the stuff to do more, and his walk rate has been below three per nine in five of the last seven years. Penny has always been a ground ball guy but took it to the extreme in St. Louis last year (52.8%), completely unsurprisingly given Dave Duncan’s track record. Like Francis, Penny does have World Series experience, and he did not have surgery for his injury, which is always a plus.
Ah yes, our old friend. Wang, now 30, was last an effective pitcher in June of 2008, when he infamously injured his foot running the bases in Houston. Surgery to repair damage to the capsule in his shoulder followed, and he was unable to reach the bigs for the Nationals in 2010 despite proclamations from his agent. Everyone reading this knows the deal with the Wanger, so I don’t need to get into the specifics. Extreme sinkerballer, lots of weak contact, won’t strike anyone out. Seen it, lived it, got a t-shirt.
Webb is the big name of the group, the former Cy Young Award winner than racked up 19.9 fWAR from 2006-2008, the second most in baseball. Now 31, Webb hasn’t pitched in what amounts to two seasons due to labrum damage, and reports out of Instructional League a few weeks ago had him sitting the low-80′s with his once devastating sinker (18.1% fly balls in his career, completely ridiculous). There’s a belief that those reports are overblown in an effort to keep his price down, however. We really don’t know what Webb is capable of right now; I don’t think he can rebound and be the beast (3.23 FIP from ’06-’08, again behind only CC) he once was. If he’s 60% of that guy though, it’d be an upgrade to the back of the Yankees’ rotation. For what it’s worth, Joel Sherman reported today that the Yankees “don’t like him all that much.”
Young is a rather unique pitcher, relying on extreme deception and size (dude’s 6-foot-10) rather than pure stuff. He missed all but four starts in 2010 due to a shoulder strain, and when he did pitch he averaged just five innings per start with a 3.88 FIP. His always pedestrian fastball dipped into the mid-80′s over the last two years, but he’s so big and hides the ball so well that it looks like he’s releasing the ball ten feet away from the batter. That’s how he’s managed an above average swing-and-miss rate (9.4%) and generally avoided getting clobbered. Young certainly benefited from Petco Park in San Diego, owning a 53% fly ball rate for his career, far and the away the highest in baseball during that time. His margin for error is microscopic these days.
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Remember, these players are looking for one thing: an opportunity. Well, that and money, we can’t forget that. Those five guys are trying to reestablish their value, so they’ll join the team that gives them the best chance to accrue innings and prove they’re healthy and productive so they can go back out on the market next year and cash in. If that means a year with the Nats or Pirates, so be it. Don’t expect the Yanks to be able to sign two or three of them either, the more there are, the less of an opportunity they’ll have.
So which one is your preferred target? Any other that weren’t covered here?
Update (1:29pm): CMW gets one year, $2M guaranteed, plus another $3M in incentives. He’ll be arbitration eligible after the season. Not to shabby.
1:00pm: Via MLBTR, the Nationals have agreeed to sign former Yank Chien-Ming Wang, and have a press conference scheduled for later this week. PeteAbe first broke the news last week, but both sides backed off a bit. Either way, it’s done now. We don’t know what the terms are yet, but reportedly the Yanks wanted the chance to match any offer.
Wang’s tenure in pinstripes ends with a 55-26 record and a 4.16 ERA, though he hasn’t pitched a full season in more than two years. Hopefully he’s healthy, and I wish him luck.
If you haven’t yet read Jay’s article about Chien-Ming Wang’s failing sinker, I suggest you do that now. It’s a thoughtful article that examines Wang’s 2009 season, in particular his flat sinker. It was so flat, in fact, that pitch f/x frequently miscategorized it as a two-seamer. There were times when he did get decent movement on his sinker, though it still didn’t sink as much in 2009, or even 2008, as it did in 2007. When he did execute the sinker in 2009, it was about a half mile an hour slower, on average, than 2007.
After reading Jay’s post, I was reminded of something Mike wrote last year about the same topic. He took a graphical look at Wang’s release point and where the ball crossed the plate. It’s clear, even to those unfamiliar with pitch f/x, that Wang’s release point was more over the top in 2009 than it was during his glory years. The movement began, it seems, in May of 2008, when Wang started pitching poorly after a good start to the season.
In response to Jay’s post, Will Carroll added a bit about biometric analysis. He adds another level to the discussion, as he brings in the mechanics of Wang’s shoulder. Apparently, according to research conducted by Dr. James Andrews, a pitcher’s bone structure “changes to accommodate the demands of pitching.” He also notes that the Yankees do not perform biomechanical analyses on their pitchers, which seems a bit odd. With such large investments at stake, I would think they want all the information possible on their most volatile players.
We heard earlier this week that Wang will sign with the Nationals, and while those rumors have been debunked for the time being, it would not surprise me at all to see him land there. They’re the type of team that can take this kind of gamble, as their pitching staff can use all the help it can get. Not that Wang provides even the slightest semblance of a guarantee. He’s a two-pitch pitcher who has seen one of those pitches lose its effectiveness. Maybe he could find success by throwing fewer fastballs, but that would require more than one secondary pitch.
While this post is mainly to point out some interesting information on a not-quite-former Yankee, it’s also to say that the Yankees certainly have their reasons for not pursuing Wang. The odds, it appears, are stacked against him.
8:56am: Once the Yankees declined to tender Chien-Ming Wang a contract in December it was pretty apparent that he would not return to the team. We held out a glimmer of hope, mainly because Wang had pitched so well in 2006 and 2007. It appears he’s about to officially become a former Yankee. PeteAbe tweets that he has chosen the Nationals, and that a deal is near. We wish him luck in his new digs, and hope he picks up a few wins against the Mets this season.
Over the past two days it has become abundantly clear that the Yankees do have a budget, and that they’ve basically reached the threshold. Since acquiring Javy Vazquez in December, Brian Cashman has told agents and reporters alike that the team had about $2 million to spend. When they signed Randy Winn for that amount and publicly declared Johnny Damon a former Yankee, they proved that the budget was no bluff. Recent reports indicate that the Yankees will focus on non-roster invites, with Marcus Thames, Rocco Baldelli, and Jonny Gomes specifically mentioned. The team’s lack of financial wiggle room also affects another oft-mentioned free agent.
Now that we’re done discussing Johnny Damon, many of us will turn to the most prolific former Yankee on the market, Chien-Ming Wang. Last time we checked, Wang’s agent, Alan Nero, sounded curiously optimistic about his client’s prospects. Shoulder surgery is no small deal, especially for a pitcher who relied on a power sinker that radar guns clocked at 95 mph. Yet Nero claims interest is strong in Wang, and that he expects “a major-league offer with a substantial guarantee and a substantial upside,” adding that he and his client would be comfortable waiting until May, Wang’s target return date, if necessary.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark has the latest from Nero, who claims that a few teams are heavily in on Wang now, and could perhaps make an acceptable offer before spring training. Wang, according to Nero, is “two to four weeks behind” his normal winter schedule, though Stark notes that teams “sounded more skeptical about that prognosis.” Stark identifies the Mets, Dodgers, and Cardinals as the teams most connected to Wang.
The story hasn’t changed, really, since the last time we heard from Nero. Wang remains a considerable risk, and since he won’t return until early May at the earliest I can’t see any team offering him a deal, as Nero says, that they “can’t say no to.” What would that take, two, three million? Is there any team desperate enough for a pitcher that they’d pay two, three million for someone coming off shoulder surgery and who can’t pitch until May? Other than the Mets. Or maybe the Royals.
The Yankees appear not to have interest in retaining Wang at this point, at least on their terms. Maybe if they unloaded Gaudin’s salary they could fit Wang in the budget, but then why would you trade a healthy pitcher for one who had shoulder surgery six months ago? It’s sad to see him go, and I hope he makes a full recovery, but we’ve seen the last of Chien-Ming Wang in pinstripes.
The Yankees have bid farewell to many mainstays and fan favorites this off-season. Hideki Matsui is out in LA. Melky Cabrera has stopped in the land of ATL. Austin Jackson is losing his mind in Detroit rock city. Johnny Damon is…who knows what the hell Johnny Damon is doing? There’s one more Yankee free agent who figures to move on, the sinkerballer Chien-Ming Wang. We’ve heard intermittent updates on the progress of his shoulder and the market for his services, but we’ve yet to see anything concrete. That’s understandable, given the severity of his malady.
The latest word comes courtesy of Ken Rosenthal, who heard from Wang’s agent, Alan Nero. As expected, Nero speaks glowingly of his client, noting the fine progress in his rehab — “Everything is going extraordinarily well,” he said — and the expected volume of his contract offers. Six teams are reportedly poring over his medical records, though we’ve seen the number of supposedly interested teams as high as 15. Still, Nero believes the market is strong for his client.
“We’re anticipating a major-league offer with a substantial guarantee and a substantial upside,” he said. At this point, however, with Wang not even throwing off a mound yet, will any team really be willing to offer him a guaranteed roster spot for “substantial” guaranteed money? It doesn’t appear likely, at least not until Wang moves a bit further along in his rehab.
That doesn’t appear to bother either agent or player. They know what they want, a big guarantee, and they appear willing to wait for it. How long, exactly? Perhaps until we’re a month into the season, when teams have a better view of the landscape.
“We’re so confident with what is going to happen, if we don’t do it until May, we’re OK,” said Nero. “Whoever shows the initiative to take a little bit of risk is going to win.”
It’s probably in Wang’s best interest to continue waiting. I doubt at this point, after a horrible 2009 campaign, any teams will give Wang a deal with “substantial guarantee and a substantial upside.” It just doesn’t make any sense. He’s now more than two years removed from his last 19-win performance, and as Mike examined at length last year, Wang had issues in 2008 as well.
By May — or even April, really — there will be a contender with a rotation need. They might pay a premium for Wang at that point, since they’re down a starter. But until a situation like that arises, I doubt any team will offer a substantial guarantee. Maybe a team will offer a small base salary, say a million, and stash Wang on the 60-day DL, but if he and Nero seek a “substantial guarantee,” the waiting game might suit them best.
This might rule out the Yankees, at least for the time being. Clearly Wang will go where the money flows and the innings are plentiful, and it doesn’t appear New York has either of those in abundance. Maybe circumstances will change between now and then, but at this point I think we can safely remove the thought of retaining Wang from our collective minds.
Credit: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
Damon a fit in Atlanta?
Want to read 1000 words on how and why Johnny Damon would be a great fit for the Braves’ lineup? Well, then point your browsers to this David O’Brien blog post and prepare for a lengthy analysis. O’Brien says Atlanta has around $7-$8 million per season for two years to offer to Damon, and since Scott Boras has yet to field a better offer, Damon just might accept.
Now, if that salary figure sounds familiar, that’s because it is reportedly what the Yankees were willing to pay Damon for at least 2010 and maybe 2011. Would Damon then accept a lesser salary with another team than he would with his former employers? Joe tackled just that question in his closing arguments, and it’s worth noting that some people are more comfortable taking lesser money from a new team than they are with taking a paycut to stick with their old one. In the end, Damon will produce no matter the salary, but he could have a better early-season outlook in Atlanta than with the Yankees.
If the Braves opt against pursuing Damon, I’m not sure where or for how much Damon ends up. The Braves — and of course the Yankees — are simply the two best and last real remaining options for Johnny. Unless the Cardinals lose out on Matt Holliday, Damon will have few choices for a player coming off a great year. He really is this year’s Bobby Abreu.
Yanks, 14 others ask about Wang
Yesterday, we learned that Chien-Ming Wang would throw off a mound in mid-to-late Feburary. Today, we hear of interest in the rehabbing right-hander. Alan Nero, Wang’s agent, told Andrew Marchand that 15 teams have inquired into the status of the former 19-game winner and erstwhile ace. The Yankees, but not the Mets, were among those teams, and I still would not be surprised if Wang returned to the Bronx on an incentive-laden deal this year.
Matsui: I want to play the outfield
Hideki Matsui‘s insistence that he will play some games in the outfield in Anaheim continues to amuse me. Last week, the World Series MVP returned home to Japan and held a press conference at which he reiterated his belief that he will see some time in left field in 2010. “I’d like to prove I can play defense at spring training,” Matsui said during a news conference. “It will be difficult to play defense every day like in the past, but I’d like to reach the point where I’m able to play defense once every few games.”
Matsui, never a great defender, last played the field on June 15, 2008 — coincidentally the same day Chien-Ming Wang suffered his career-derailing Lisfranc injury. Since then, he has undergone at least one knee surgery and a few procedures to drain fluids from his knees, but if the Angels want to risk, so be it.
The story behind Fred McGriff and Tom Emanski
How, you may ask, does Fred McGriff end up on a link dump of news concerning former Yankees? Well, New York drafted McGriff in the ninth round of the 1981 amateur draft, and then the team traded him with Dave Collins and Mike Morgan on December 9, 1982 to the Blue Jays for Tom Dodd and Dale Murray. It wasn’t a good trade. Anyway, while McGriff made a name for himself with the bat, he is in one of the longest running baseball video commercials of all time, and today, Tyler Kepner gets the story behind the Emanski endorsement. His teams did win back to back to back A.A.U. National Championships, after all.
Randy Johnson will announce his retirement tomorrow
The Big Unit spent two productive years in pinstripes, and his Hall of Fame career appears to have ended: Bob Nightengale says RJ will announce his retirement tomorrow morning. He went 34-19 with a 4.37 ERA in pinstripes, though he really made his mark with the Diamondbacks. When Arizona signed Johnson to a four year, $53M contract in 1999, they were rewarded with four Cy Youngs and a 2.52 FIP with 1,417 strikeouts in 1030 innings. Wow.
Chien-Ming Wang visited Dr. James Andrews today, and came back with a positive report. Via Ken Rosenthal, we learn that Wang could throw off a mound in six to eight weeks. Considering the severity of the injury, I expect that it will be closer to eight weeks, which would have Wang throwing off a mound in late February, early March. I’m not sure how long his rehab would take from there, but I don’t imagine he could pitch in even a minor league game before early April. The end of Rosenthal’s tweet got cut off, but it appears that there could be heightened interest in the sinkerballer. What benefits Wang more, though: getting into camp and under rehab with a specific team, or proving his health and then signing?
By all appearances, the Yankees remain interested in Chien-Ming Wang. After the team non-tendered him earlier this month, we learned that they offered him a split contract which would add him to the active roster once his shoulder recovers. A few weeks later, a report surfaced that the Yankees would like the chance to match any other team’s offer. While that doesn’t guarantee that the Yankees would match, it’s clear that they want every opportunity to retain Wang. Might Wang want every opportunity to remain a Yankee?
Sam Borden of the Journal News received word of a recent public appearance wherein Wang said “that there were no hard feelings on his side about being non-tendered.” Not that there should be; any sane team would have done the same. I’m willing to bet, even, that the Yankees are the only team that would have even considered tendering him a contract. But not even the sport’s richest franchise would guarantee Wang $5 million, or more, following pretty serious shoulder surgery.
Just because Wang doesn’t harbor ill will doesn’t mean that he’s willing to return. His statement might have been no more than a publicity bit, to keep satisfied his fans who want to see him continue pitching in pinstripes. After all, Wang does have a few reasons to consider pitching elsewhere, the foremost of which is playing time. The Yankees currently have six starters for five rotation spots, so even if they suffer an injury early in the season they have an in-house replacement. Wang could find himself ready by early June, but no spot in the rotation to fill.
Another, lesser team can offer Wang a guaranteed rotation spot once his shoulder recovers. He could sign with, say, the Astros, knowing that they’ll have a spot for him at any point in the season. That means more innings, which can turn into a bigger payday next winter, Wang’s final year of arbitration. Because the Astros operate with tight pursestrings, they might even non-tender Wang if he pitches well enough in 2010, making him a free agent a year early. That’s certainly a rosy scenario for Wang’s wallet. But is that all he’s after?
Clearly, baseball players have a limited earnings window. This goes especially for pitchers, and especially for pitchers who have suffered three shoulder injuries. But at what point do familiarity and an opportunity to win matter? Wang had to watch as his teammates won the World Series, but he was still right at the center of the celebration at the mound. There has to be a part of him that wants to return and get a chance to contribute to another championship. If that resides high on his priority list, we’ll probably see him back in pinstripes. If it’s really all about the money, he might consider other destinations, even if the Yankees match a deal for 2010. The guaranteed rotation spot in another organization could boost his future earnings.
According to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, 15 teams have shown interest in Chien-Ming Wang. That sounds about right. Any team with contention hopes should have at least called to see what he and his agent, Alan Nero, seek for the 2010 season. The most interesting part of the one-paragraph blurb resides in a parenthetical aside, when Cafardo mentions that the Yankees “would like to match any final offer.” I’m sure there’s a limit on the offer, but I doubt any team offers more than the split minor league/major league contract the Yankees proposed after non-tendering Wang.
As for Wang’s rehab schedule, he’s been throwing long toss since December 1, and will visit with Dr. James Andrews after the new year to “get an updated timeframe on his comeback.” Nero is still talking about an early May return for Wang.