(Note: RAB stole my thunder a bit by posting on this a few hours ago, but I had this ready to go, so I was not going to just forget about it).
One of the very first major debates that we had on this site had to do with the Yankees plethora of pitching prospects and what they might do if the rotation began to get crowded. The consensus seemed to be that CM Wang would be the one to go, with myself strongly dissenting from that point of view. Yesterday, Joel Sherman made a similar suggestion:
I did not advocate that the Yankees should trade Wang. I simply put out a scenario that I have discussed with Yankee officials. Wang is going to be a free agent after the 2010 season so to keep him the Yankees are going to have to pay him elite dollars over a long-term to stay: He will likely have a case that he should be paid commensurate with the five years at $82.5 million bestowed A.J. Burnett. And the Yanks, internally, are not positive about going to such extents with Wang. He has pitched four seasons in the majors and two have been interrupted by injury. They wonder how a pitcher who does not strike out batters will age as he loses some bite on his sinking fastball, especially since he has been sketchy in developing the rest of his repertoire. And he would begin a new contract in 2011 at age 31, so you almost certainly are buying declining years.
Because of all of this, the Yankees have weighed trade scenarios in the past involving Wang and, I suspect, they will continue to at least listen, especially if they believe that Hughes is capable of being, at minimum, a cost-effective, mid-rotation starter. The Yankee logic would be simple: If they do not think they can go long-term with Wang then would they be better off letting him pitch for them through 2010 or to use him to potentially fill another area of need via trade? Remember, the Yanks might be hoping to further stock the top of their rotation with someone they would rather invest the money in than Wang such as a trade for a Roy Halladay or an international signing of Yu Darvish.
There are a few points about this argument that confuse me. Firstly, I am not sure as to why there would be heightened doubts about Wang’s stuff holding up when compared to any other pitcher. You could have made the same point about Mariano’s cutter about 7 seasons ago, as well as AJ Burnett’s curveball. Very few pitchers have two out pitches, so the idea that Wang will be somehow more vulnerable due to his dependence on his sinker seems a bit strange. Furthermore, Wang has had an increasing K-rate and decreasing FIP for the last 3 seasons. He seems to have mixed up his pitches a bit, and should be fine as he ages.
In regard to his injuries, Wang has had one legitimate pitching injury, in his first season in the majors. Since then, he has been a workhorse, and only a freak injury such as the one he incurred running the basepaths last season could prevent him from throwing about 200 innings. Trading effective innings eaters is not good business for a team that has struggled with health issues in their rotation for the better part of a decade.
Finally, from an organizational point of view, I do not see any way in which a move would make sense. Assuming that Andy Pettitte retires after 2009, the Yankees would have Joba, CC, and AJ in the rotation for 2010. Sherman hinges his theory upon the emergence of Phil Hughes as a viable mid-rotation guy, so Hughes would take the fourth spot. In regard to the 5th spot, I do not see anyone who could fill that final slot in the rotation better than Chien Ming Wang. Trading him to make room for prospects who are unlikely to be ready in 2010, such as Andrew Brackman or Zach McCallister, would be a poor decision. You never trade established players to make room for unproven players, and you can never have enough pitching. Getting rid of Wang would violate both of those tenets.
Of course, if the Yankees are blown away with an offer that could the bring them long term answers at key positions, I may feel differently. However, looking at the Yankees farm system, I find it hard to believe that any Wang trade would properly supplement them in areas of weakness. The Yankees have long term contracts at 1st and 3rd, are likely locked in at 2nd, have their best prospect in CF, and have a slew of promising guys at catcher. The only position player that I could see a viable trade being built around is a shortstop, which of course would open a giant can of worms regarding Derek Jeter. Quite frankly, I just do not see trading Wang as a viable option, and I hope Brian Cashman feels the same way.
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