Friday, March 22, 2013

Why A Wang Return Would Be Helpful

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

The biggest non-Jeter's ankle story of yesterday was the return of Chien-Ming Wang to the Yankees.  It wasn't as an official team member, as Wang is still searching for a job offer after a brutal 2012 with the Nationals, but he was there to pitch for team scouts and coaches and hopefully do enough to get himself a contract offer.  The Yankees were connected to Wang recently and scouted him at the WBC, where he was reportedly throwing his sinker high 80s-low 90s and didn't allow a run in 12 IP.  After the dreaded baserunning foot injury of '08 and the awful follow-up performance in '09, a return to the Yankee organization would be a nice little deal for Wang.

It also wouldn't be bad for the Yankees, who are always in the market for pitching depth.  While Wang is certainly not a contender for a Major League rotation spot at this point in his career, or even a 40-man roster spot for that matter, he does represent the type of veteran arm the Yankees have liked to keep stashed in their Triple-A rotation for the last few years.  They find themselves without that arm right now and adding Wang to the mix could be the final piece needed to solidify the top levels of their organizational rotation depth.

The Yanks are set at the Major League level, and in Adam Warren and Brett Marshall they've got a couple of young Triple-A arms capable of stepping in and making a spot start here or there as needed.  The rest of the Triple-A rotation isn't so solid, with Dellin Betances getting another shot (probably his last) to prove himself as a starter, Shaeffer Hall being nothing more than a warm body, and Vidal Nuno possibly sneaking his way into the Major League bullpen.  In Double-A the mix is equally varied, with depth guys like Caleb Cotham and Mikey O'Brien and legit prospects like Jose Ramirez and Nik Turley who are new to the level of competition.

There's a fair amount of injury risk in the Major League rotation, and if a worst-case scenario plays out where multiple guys go down, it could turn into a Chinese fire drill to try and fill holes.  The Yankees can't afford another Chase Wright/Matt DeSalvo/Darrell Rasner situation with their weakened lineup this season, and they don't need to be shuttling guys like Turley and Ramirez up a level or two and getting them out of their development routines before they're ready.  Wang's presence in the Triple-A rotation would be a stabilizing force to cover for that worst-case scenario, an extra arm who can stay put in Triple-A and lessen the need to call overmatched guys up or an arm who can be used for a few emergency Major League starts if it came to that.

This type of worst-case scenario I'm describing would probably be a death sentence to the Yankees' 2013 postseason chances, and that's not a fun scenario to think about.  It still never hurts to be prepared, though, and the Yankees have been good about having veteran pitching depth on standby for just such a scenario.  Wang wouldn't give them much if he did have to pitch in the Majors, but if they're going to get below replacement-level performance from a MiL fill-in pitcher, I'd rather it be from a disposable source like Wang than from a real prospect whose been thrown out of his comfort zone and right into the fire.  Ask Chase Wright how that worked out for him.

There wasn't much information on the results of Wang's session yesterday, and as of right now no signing has been announced.  If that announcement does come today, I think it will be a good move for both the Yankees and Wang.

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