A few years ago, Chien Ming Wang was considered the Yankees' ace. Now, Wang isn't even a Yankee. In fact, after being non tendered yesterday, Wang has no team:
Wang, 30, was a stalwart on Yankees teams that always seemed to be short of enough quality pitching, using his sinkerball to win 19 games in 2006 and 2007. As the Yankees struggled to find stability in its starting rotation, Wang stood out as the closest the team had to an ace, his success vaulting him to superstardom in his native Taiwan.
But a season-ending foot injury suffered while running the bases in an interleague game in June 2008 marked the start of a rapid, health-hastened decline that led to the Yankees non-tendering the pitcher before Saturday's deadline to do so.
The move was expected.
Wang earned $5 million in 2009 and was eligible for arbitration this offsason. To keep him under contract, the Yankees would have had to pay at least $4 million, a hefty price tag for a pitcher who the last two seasons has been hit hard by injuries.
Now a free agent, Wang could re-sign for less money to rejoin the Yankees, the team that first signed him out of Taiwan in 2000. But Cashman said at the winter meetings that the right-hander likely won't be ready to pitch until April, at the earliest.
So what teams out there would be willing to wait until late April or early May for Wang to join their rotation? Let's take a look:
Dodgers: Sure the Dodgers are having money issues, but the thought of reuniting Wang with manager Joe Torre is intriguing, right? Wang would be a nice low cost option for the Dodgers, who need starting pitching desperately, but simply do not have the budget to go after the best free agents.
Yankees: As GM Brian Cashman noted:
"There's no doubt that we had to make a tough decision," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in a statement on Saturday.
"We are still hopeful that our relationship can continue but those decisions are yet to be made."
Red Sox: The Red Sox signed Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, and John Smoltz last winter, all of whom were coming off arm injuries. Signing Wang would be a similar move by GM Theo Epstein and give the Sox a fantastic rotation should Wang pitch up to his ability.
Mariners: Given how the Mariners have spent money this winter, it's likely that they will be very active on the free agent starting pitcher front this winter no matter what the cost.
However, Wang would be a fine choice for the Mariners to explore if they are looking for a cheap starting pitcher, who could potentially become a front line starter. Wang's ability to throw ground balls should also be a factor here given how wide and spacious SAFECO Field is.
Orioles: GM Andy McPhail has hinted that the O's are in a good position to go after a starting pitcher with a injury history and Chien Ming Wang certainly fits the description. Baltimore has some money to spend, but it remains to be seen if they will spend it on Wang or a guy like Bedard, Duchscherer, or Sheets.
I'd be surprised to see Wang get more than $1-$2 million on the market this winter simply because he is coming off a major injury and put together one of the worst seasons in AL history last season for a starting pitcher.