Yankees sign Chien-Ming Wang to minor league contract

(Koji Watanabe/Getty)
(Koji Watanabe/Getty)

Sunday: The contract is worth $3M at a big league level according to George King and Kevin Kernan. I assume that’s pro-rated for the time he’s actually on the roster, which is typical. Still a pretty nice chunk of change for Triple-A depth guy. The contract does include an opt-out clause, but the exact date is unknown.

Saturday: The Yankees have announced the signing and it is indeed a minor league contract. No word on how much he’ll make if he pitches in the big leagues yet. Wang will speak to the media following a workout Monday morning and will presumably discuss his decision to return to the team and the health of his shoulder. Hopefully we get to see him in a Grapefruit League game before the season starts.

Friday: The Yankees have been searching for a veteran starter to stash in Triple-A, and that search has led them to a familiar name. Jon Heyman reports the club has agreed to sign Chien-Ming Wang to what I assume is a minor league contract. He was in Tampa this week to throw bullpens and showcase himself for the team.

Wang, 33 next week, threw 12 shutout innings for Chinese Taipei in the World Baseball Classic earlier this month. The Yankees were one of a number of clubs to scout him during the tournament — reports indicate his trademark sinker was clocked in the 88-92 mph range — and apparently they liked what they saw enough to bring him in for more workouts. Obviously the two sides are familiar with each other.

Due to numerous injuries, most notably a torn shoulder capsule that required surgery in July 2009, Wang has not been an effective big league pitcher since hurting his foot running the bases in Houston in June 2008. He pitched to a 3.79 ERA (3.90 FIP) with a 60.5% ground ball rate in 628.2 innings from 2005-2008, but since then he’s managed a 6.39 ERA (5.12 FIP) with a 53.2% ground ball rate in 136.2 innings. The Yankees are clearly banking on his World Baseball Classic showing being legit.

Wang will join a Triple-A Scranton rotation that will also include lefty Vidal Nuno and righties Adam Warren, Brett Marshall, and Dellin Betances. He’ll be able to opt-out of his contract on June 1st if he’s not called up to the big leagues thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is a road the team will cross when the time comes. Wang looked pretty darn good in the WBC, but he’s still unlikely to contribute much at the big league level. Either way, it’s no-risk move with some neato nostalgia involved.

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Norris: Chien-Ming Wang working out for Yankees in Tampa

Via Josh Norris: Chien-Ming Wang is with the Yankees in Tampa and is working out for the team. He’ll throw a few bullpen sessions, stuff like that. Ken Davidoff confirmed with the right-hander’s agent that no deal has been reached and they are still talking to multiple teams.

Wang, 32, pitched very well for Chinese Taipei in the World Baseball Classic, throwing 12 scoreless innings across two starts. His trademark sinker was clocked in the 88-92 mph range and the Yankees have had interest in him for about a month now. We know the club is looking for a veteran starter to stash in Triple-A, but the fact remains that Wang has not been an effective pitcher since hurting his foot running the bases in Houston in June 2008. That said, if what he showed during the WBC — heavy sinkers and lots of quick outs — was legit, he’d be perfect on a minor league deal.

Yanks interested in Chien-Ming Wang, had “major interest” in Vazquez

As expected, the Yankees had someone on hand to scout Chien-Ming Wang during his World Baseball Classic start on Friday night and remain interested in signing him according to Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman. George King says his fastball was clocked in the 88-92 mph range, which is pretty good considering a) the extent of his shoulder injuries, and b) it’s only early-March. Wang, 32, held a weak Australia lineup to four singles in six scoreless innings despite the mandatory 65-pitch limit.

Meanwhile, Nick Cafardo says the Yankees were one of five teams with “major interest” in Javy Vazquez before he blew out his knee and required surgery. The 36-year-old reportedly threw the ball very well during his winter ball stint in Puerto Rico and was considering a return to MLB after sitting out last summer, though the knee injury is likely to keep him out all year. Despite Wang’s lack of success since his mid-2008 foot injury and Vazquez’s ugly stints in pinstripes, the Yankees aren’t leaving stones unturned as they search for a veteran starter to stash in Triple-A for depth. Wang looked pretty darn good the other night, I’d be cool with giving him a minor league deal if the medicals check out.

Yankees looking for pitching depth, keeping tabs on Chien-Ming Wang

Via Joel Sherman & George King: The Yankees continue to seek a veteran pitcher to stash in the Triple-A rotation, so they’ll scout Chien-Ming Wang with Team Taiwan during the World Baseball Classic. The former Yankees right-hander impressed Spring Training pitching instructor Billy Connors with a recent workout and is said to be seeking a Major League contract.

Wang, 33 next month, has not been an effective pitcher since hurting his foot running the bases during interleague play back in 2008. He got clobbered with the Yankees in 2009 and missed the entire 2010 season following surgery to repair his shoulder capsule. Wang pitched to a 6.68 ERA (5.85 FIP) with a 52.9% ground ball rate in 32.1 innings for the Nationals last year, and PitchFX clocked his trademark sinker in the low-90s. There’s no way I’d give him a guaranteed contract, but he would be a fine Triple-A depth guy. I’d prefer someone with a little more certainty, but that guy really doesn’t exist.

Mailbag: Darvish, Felix, Nova, Wang, Banuelos

Just four questions this week, but they’re good ones. We’ll look at where the money for Yu Darvish would be coming from, bad blood between the Yankees and Mariners, an Ivan Nova-Chien-Ming Wang comparison, and comps for Manny Banuelos. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar whenever you send a question in.

(Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

Mark asks: In regards to your recent post on Yu Darvish, can you explain how any team, let along the Yankees, can afford to pay a one-time posting fee of $40 million in these current economic times? I always thought the Steinbrenners ran the Yanks at break-even or at a slight loss. Unless MLB allows them to borrow from their YES broadcast subsidiary, I cannot imagine any owner, even the Steinbrenners, having that kind of cash lying around in a liquid investment, but I could be wrong. Or are posting fees paid out over the life of the contract? If not, I wonder why it doesn’t make more sense financially for the Yankees to boost their payroll by say $10-15 million as a way of spreading the wealth around to more players versus just one.

The posting fee is a one-time payment that has to be made when the player signs his contract, so the Red Sox had to cut the Seibu Lions a $51.1M check for Daisuke Matsuzaka back in December of 2006. If the team and the player don’t agree to a deal, like what happened with the A’s and Hisashi Iwakuma this past offseason, then the team doesn’t have to pay the posting fee.

I have no idea what the Yankees’ finances look like, but I’m certain they have $40M+ lying around somewhere to make a payment like that. With a $200M payroll, they’re making ~$17M payments for player salaries twice a month (just salaries, doesn’t not include benefits and non-player personnel), so I’m sure the cash is somewhere in Yankee Global Enterprises. I hear the New Stadium comes equipped with a cash printing press in the basement*, actually. I know I kinda danced around the question but like I said, I haven’t seen their books, but I have to think there’s $40M on reserve somewhere, likely much more than that.

* This may or may not be true.

Elliot asks: While this is very speculative, do you think that Jack Zduriencik getting a two-year extension with the Mariners hurts the Yankees ability to trade for King Felix? Do you think there is still bad blood between Cashman and him because of the failed Cliff Lee Negotiations? 

Felix Hernandez is not getting traded anytime soon, with or without Zduriencik’s extension. He’s only 25 and is under contract for four more years (three more after this season), he’s absolutely going to be part of the next winning Mariners team. They’re not some small-market outfit, they have tons of cash to throw around and a pretty strong young core with Felix, Michael Pineda, Justin Smoak, and Dustin Ackley. They could turn that team around in a year.

As for possible bad blood, yeah I do think there is some, but I don’t think it’s enough to get in the way of a potential Felix trade. He’s a very special case. When it comes to bit pieces though, a spare reliever or a bench bat, then forget it, you can find that stuff anywhere. Zduriencik did what he felt was best for his team, but I have to believe he burned some bridges with that maneuver. I’m sure other teams noticed too.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Mark asks: Do you think Ivan Nova compares favorably to Chien-Ming Wang at this point of his career?

Yes, I do think Nova now is better than Wang then, but they are different pitchers. Yeah, both rely on ground balls, but Wang relied on them to the extreme, I mean he never struck anyone out (3.3 K/9 from 2005-2006) and was regularly over 60% grounders before his foot and shoulder gave out. Nova is more of a 50-55% ground ball guy with 5.5 K/9 or so, and I’d happily trade about ten percentage points of ground balls for one extra strikeout every four innings. Wang was also a year older than Nova is now when he debuted, and although it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s not insignificant.

I will say this, Wang generated more consistently weak contact than I can remember ever seeing out of one pitcher. The history of baseball says it should not have worked for a guy allowing that many balls to be put into play (especially for a team as defensively awful as the 2005-2007 Yankees, man were they terrible with the glove), but it did because he never seemed to let the ball out of the infield. Wang was a 3.60-4.00 ERA guy before getting hurt, and that’s pretty much what I think Nova can be most years, with a little more at his peak.

Patrick asks: Who’s a good comparison for Manny Banuelos? I’d love to say Johan Santana but that’s unfair. What about Ricky Romero?

This question was sent in just a few minutes after Sweeny Murti said a scout dropped a Romero comp on Banuelos, and I’m guessing that’s not an accident. Looking strictly at the whole low-to-mid-90’s fastball/knockout changeup/third pitch curveball thing, then Romero’s a very good comp. The Blue Jays ace uses a two-seamer as well, plus he’s an inch or two taller than the Yankees young southpaw, but otherwise it fits. Of course when Romero was Banuelos’ age, he was a sophomore at Cal State Fullerton, a year away from being drafted (sixth overall in 2005), and four years away from making his big league debut. The two have had very, very different development paths.

Johan’s third pitch was always a slider, and plus his changeup was one of the best we’ll ever see. That’s an unfair comparison to slap on anyone, nevermind just Banuelos. Cole Hamels, Jaime Garcia, and John Danks are also fastball-change-curve, but all three of those guys have added cutters in recent years and are a few inches taller as well. They’re better comps than Santana, but still not perfect. Jeff Francis, Jason Vargas, and Mark Buehrle have the same repertoire, but none of them throw as hard as Banuelos.

That Romero/Hamels/Garcia/Danks group is pretty damn good, and I’m sure the Yankees would be absolutely thrilled if Banuelos develops into any one of them. They’re all well-above-average starters with strikeout stuff, and with the exception of Garcia (who’s in just his second full year as a big leaguer), they’ve shown the ability to stay healthy and eat up innings year after year. Getting that kind of value from Banuelos would be a major player development win.

Mailbag: Hughes, Wang, Prospects, Farm Teams

Four questions on this Friday morning, one about a current Yankees’ pitcher, one about a former Yankees’ pitcher, and a pair about the farm system. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions throughout the week.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Shai asks: Is Hughes a candidate for fall/winter ball? Given his few innings this year and his obvious need for secondary pitch development maybe it would be good for winter ball participation.

Yeah, I definitely think so. The Arizona Fall League eligibility rules have apparently changed since I last looked at them, but Phil Hughes is ineligible anyway because he has more than a year of service time. They could send him to Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic, but I can’t ever remember the Yankees sending a pitcher to a Latin America winter league. I know Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera used to play in the DSL every year, but they’re obviously not pitchers. Hughes needs innings one way or the other, whether the Yankees consider him part of their future or not. Another handful of starts in winter ball.

RCK asks: Do you know what the incentives are on Chien Ming Wang’s contract? I can only find articles saying they’re worth $4MM total, but nothing about what the milestones are. Speaking of Wang, where do you think he’ll land next year?

Wanger signed a one-year deal with the Nationals worth $1M guaranteed this offseason after they paid him $3M last season. There’s another $4M worth of incentives in his contract, and Mark Zuckerman says they’re based on the number of games he started. I have no idea what the breakdown is, though he’s made six starts this season and might already be banking some of that extra cash.

It’s great that Wang is back in the big leagues, I’m legitimately happy for him, but he’s having a very odd season so far. He’s walked 13 and struck out just nine, and his ground ball rate is merely very good at 54.5%. In his heyday (2006 and 2007), he was at 60.8% grounders. After spending all that money and waiting all that time for him rehab, I have to imagine the Nationals will re-sign him after the season, when he’ll become a free agent by virtue of having six-plus years of service time. Wang still has a long way to go in his comeback, but he’s off to a nice little start.

Will asks: Which Yankee prospects have seen their stock rise and which have seen their stock tumble? Can you see any players make the BA Top 100 list for the first time and can you see anyone drop in their ranking?

(Tom Priddy/MiLB.com)

The two biggest risers for me are Mason Williams and J.R. Murphy, and I really liked Murphy coming into the season. His improved defense behind the plate increases his stock considerably, it’s just a shame that his season ended prematurely with that leg injury. I remember seeing someone mention that it happened on a foul ball, but I haven’t seen that confirmed anywhere. Williams obvious had the huge season with Short Season Staten Island, but apparently he has way more power potential than I realized. I thought he was a 10-12 homer guy at his peak, but apparently he’s got a shot at 20+. That would be amazing given the rest of his skill set and athleticism.

As far as droppers … I mean obviously the big one is Andrew Brackman. Yes, he has pitched much better of late (since that nine walk, 3.1 IP disaster), but it doesn’t erase what happened earlier in the year. He’s not young (in prospect years) and he still has a ways to go before proving that the improvement is real. Slade Heathcott‘s third shoulder injury in four years really puts a damper on things for me, because it’s the same body part over and over. You have to worry if it’ll become (or already has become) a chronic problem. All the time Graham Stoneburner missed because of the neck certainly isn’t a positive, same deal with David Adams and his never-ending injury troubles. Ryan Pope had a chance to see big league bullpen time this year but wound up hurt, back in Double-A, and eventually DFA’d. Melky Mesa and Jose Ramirez didn’t help their causes either.

The Yankees landed six players on Baseball America’s Top 100 List and five on Keith Law’s Top 100 List before the season. Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances are locks for the list next year, and I think Gary Sanchez has a decent shot of making it again as well. It’s not set in stone though. I have to imagine Brackman will drop off the list, and Austin Romine was barely sneaking on in the first place. Williams is the only serious candidate to jump into the list, and if he does so it’ll be in the back half somewhere, 75-100 or so. There will be many guys closer to the majors ahead of him. So what’s that, three shoo-ins and three others with a legit chance to make it? Not bad at all.

Melvin asks: For the next mailbag, what (if anything) does it mean that most of the Yankees farm teams aren’t making the playoffs? The farm system is well regarded in terms of prospects, is it maybe just a matter of the non-prospects not performing? So in short, does this even matter?

Winning in the minors is always secondary to development, but everyone wants to win. It’s good for business (for the affiliates), and you don’t want your young players getting familiar with a losing atmosphere. The Yankees’ four full-season minor league affiliates are likely to miss the postseason this year for the first time (as a group) in basically forever, but I don’t think it means anything at all. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an anomaly.

New York’s affiliates have been making the postseason and winning league championships for years now, so this is way out of the ordinary. At least one of the full season squads has won a championship every year from 2007 through 2010, and that doesn’t count the five titles won by Short Season Staten Island since 2000, or the four the GCL Yankees have won since 2004. Yankees affiliates have finished the season with a combined over-.500 record in each of the last 28 years, and the streak is likely to continue in 2011. If none of the four full season teams make the playoffs again next year, and then against the year after that, and it starts to become a trend, then I’ll wonder what’s up. But one year? Nah, I’m just chalking it up to being a total fluke.

The obligatory “Injured Pitchers” post

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…

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Jeff Francis

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.

Brad Penny

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.

Chien-Ming Wang

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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.

Brandon Webb

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.”

Uh, where's the ball? (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Chris Young

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.

* * *

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?