Chien-Ming Wang is just starting down the long road back from July shoulder surgery, but said yesterday that he hopes to begin playing catch in January with an eye toward returning to the mound at some point in 2010.
However, as Peter Abraham of the New York Journal News points out Wang’s return may not come with the Yankees:
Wang had a $5 million contract this season and is eligible for arbitration. There is virtually no chance the Yankees will offer him arbitration before the December deadline. That would leave Wang a free agent. “I would like to stay in New York,” he said. “But I don’t know what will happen.”
One possibility is that the Yankees could offer Wang a minor-league contract. Or another team could sign him to a major-league deal and hope that he returns to form. “That’s something we won’t even think about until November,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “Those are issues for another day.”
Shoulder surgery, a foot injury, and a 9.64 ERA leave Wang with an awful lot to come back from, but the beauty of the Yankees’ payroll is that it enables them to sign big-name free agents and gives them the flexibility to take fliers on risky players. Small-payroll teams have a difficult time risking even a couple million bucks on a pitcher coming back from a major injury, but for the Yankees that represents a drop in the bucket.
In other words, if Wang is interested in remaining in New York and the Yankees are interested in having him back there probably won’t be a better fit for him between the familiarity and monetary upside. They can non-tender him this offseason, re-sign him to an incentive-laden contract with a team option for 2011, and hope that the ground-ball machine who went 54-20 with a 3.79 ERA through his first 95 starts can reemerge with a rebuilt arm.