(Long Island, N.Y.) Under the radar amongst all of the big names being bantered about recently with the New York Yankees, the team made a brilliant move that may pay huge dividends sometime later this summer. With all of the talk of the injuries to Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson, general manager Brian Cashman has not even shown a hint of panic mode and went about his business the smart – and winning – way.
“The New York Yankees announced they have signed right-handed pitcher Chien-Ming Wang to a one-year minor league contract,” an official team press release stated. “Wang is scheduled (to) report immediately to minor league spring training at the Yankees’ Player Development Complex in Tampa, Florida.”
While taking a low-risk flyer out on a pitcher coming back from various injuries is not usually that newsworthy (especially with an organization like the Yankees), this one has a little special meaning because of Wang’s history with the team. Between 2005 and 2009, the native of Taiwan complied a 55-26 win-loss record, 4.16 ERA and 310 strikeouts. He won 19 games in consecutive seasons (2006, 2007) and was the Yanks’ opening day starter the following year.
That June, he injured his right foot while running the bases in an interleague match-up versus the Houston Astros and then in July 2009, Wang underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. He was let go in the offseason, signed with the Washington Nationals and sat out the 2010 campaign recovering. In parts of the last two seasons with the Nats, he pitched in 21 games and went 6-6 with a 4.94 ERA. Injury woes continued, as Wang spent chunks of time on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring and right hip soreness.
But he was able to get healthy in time for the recent World Baseball Classic and in two starts for Chinese Tapei, Wang held the opponents scoreless in 12 innings pitched. That gave the Yankees an indication that the soon-to-be 33-year-old may be worth a gamble.
While still young enough to bounce back, and the fact that his arm has not been taxed for some time, makes this a high ceiling move. Wang has always been a big fan favorite and if he does well at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (where he is expected to begin the season), then he is certainly a candidate for promotion and either fills a roll as a spot starter or a long man out of the bullpen.
Currently, the Yankees have a starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, David Phelps and Ivan Nova, with Phil Hughes to join them at the ‘four’ or ‘five’ spot once he is healthy. So adding experienced depth is not only a luxury, but also perhaps a necessity in the event of further injury. The season is a very long one and all teams go through much more than five starters before it’s all said and done. If Wang can even be 80 percent of what he once was, then this is a genius move.
Quiet, but genius.