For the last few days, it has been reported than Chien-Ming Wang is deciding between the Nationals and one other team. It appears that other team might be the Dodgers. Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reported that the Dodgers are watching Wang throw today for the third time, speculating that they are the second team in the running for his services. Heyman also reported that Bill Mueller and Logan White are with Ned Colletti in Phoenix to watch the former Yankee starter pitch.
Wang, who turns 30 on March 31, pitched for Joe Torre in New York for four seasons, twice winning 19 games, and finished second in the 2006 Cy Young Award balloting. Over the last two season, Wang has battled injuries. His 2008 season was cut short after he hurt himself running the bases in an interleague game in Houston, prompting Hank Steinbrenner to deliver one of the better sports owner rants in recent memory. Last season, Wang struggled mightily, with a 9.64 ERA in 42 innings before having shoulder surgery to repair a torn capsule in July.
What would Wang mean for the Dodgers? Well, for one thing, his addition would necessitate another roster move, as the 40-man roster is currently full. Also, it would push Scott Elbert, James McDonald, and Josh Lindblom further down the depth chart, not to mention alter the fate of Eric Stults and Charlie Haeger, who are out of options. Add in the likelihood that Wang might not be ready until May, and this becomes a more complicated transaction.
If Wang is healthy, he can be an asset to the starting staff. His strengths are limiting home runs and inducing ground balls, all while striking out very few hitters. Even when he was getting bombed last season, he wasn't that bad, producing a 4.55 x-FIP. From 2005-2008, Wang's x-FIP ranged from 4.16 to 4.23, so if his shoulder holds up that's a pretty good idea as to what his performance might be. I would expect his contract to have a low base salary with lots of incentives, perhaps like the contract Erik Bedard signed with the Mariners this week ($1.5 million base salary plus potentially $6 million more in incentives).
Another factor to consider is that this could potentially be a two-year commitment, although not directly. Wang currently has just under five years of service time (he was a "Super Two" in 2008; thanks, Cot's), and he would be arbitration-eligible in 2011 as well, if the Dodgers chose to tender him a contract.
This could make for an interesting spring, in that I believe the Dodgers will end up making four roster moves to accommodate current non-roster players, including a potential Wang singing:
- adding Brian Giles or Doug Mientkiewicz as the lefty pinch hitter
- adding Jeff Weaver as the swing man in the bullpen
- adding Alfredo Amezaga, Nick Green, or Angel Berroa as the backup shortstop
Also, even though he will likely not be ready to pitch next month, a signing of Wang would give the Dodgers a near monopoly on current Taiwanese players in Major League Baseball as they take their short trip to Taiwan.
UPDATE: Apparently the Dodgers either didn't like what they saw in Phoenix, or Wang's asking price was too high, because they have now pulled out of the Wang derby, again per Jon Heyman.