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Why the Nats signed Wang

Feb 16, 2010, 7:43 PM EDT

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Since word got out last week that the Nationals were the front-runners to sign Chien-Ming Wang, the reaction has been decidedly mixed. Seems some fans have been jumping for joy, ecstatic that Washington could get its hands on a guy who posted back-to-back 19-win seasons in 2006-07 before battling injuries the last two years. And it seems others are decidedly against the move, believing Wang's best days are behind him and that he's far from the reliable starter the Nats so desperately need.

Fair points, at both ends of the spectrum.

Here, though, is an explanation why the Nationals believe Wang is worth the investment…

First and foremost, he's still young. Wang turns 30 on March 31, so he conceivably has plenty of gas left in the tank. Unlike, say, 42-year-old John Smoltz, who has been considering retirement for several seasons and faces the possibility of throwing his final pitch every time he takes the mound.

Yes, Wang has been beset by injuries to his foot and shoulder the last two years. But plenty of guys have returned from far worse and Read more »

  1. court - Feb 16, 2010 at 7:55 PM

    Mark, great work! So is the $2 mil official (with incentives up to $5mil)? For less than half of Da Meat Hook, both contractually and physically, Wang is well worth the risk. This is pie in the sky, but if the Nats can figure out a way to hang in there for the first few months, they could potentially get Strasburg and Wang for the second half. I'd say you'd be hard pressed to match that in the trade market.

  2. Alan - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:00 PM

    Good Points, Mark. I am starting to root for Nats!!! Go! Nats! Go! Wang~~~

  3. Kevin - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:12 PM

    The problem isn't with signing Wang. Wang is a fine low risk, medium-high reward signing. The problem is the context of the Wang signing. Instead of Wang being a nice addition to an offseason that saw the Nats add an innings-eater like Marquis and either a second mediocre stopgap like Garland or a high-risk, high-reward type like Sheets (my preference), it's just Marquis and then Wang sometime in May. It should have been Marquis + SP with Wang as a bonus.The 2010 rotation is still paper thin, and you have to really hope everything breaks the right way with Strasburg and Zimmermann if the rotation is going to come together for 2011.

  4. Stuart - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:13 PM

    Mark,great context & explaination. Thanks.

  5. Wigi - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:19 PM

    I have been tepid at the prospect of signing Wang… but I think you've made some excellent points.I think that there is a certain amount of trepidation that goes with signing a player that is recovering from an injury… and for Nats fans, there's a certain visceral connection to the Bowden reclaimation projects… Not saying this is 'that'… just that it is hard to forget Wily Mo. … and Wily Mo wasn't a pitcher.

  6. Anonymous - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:24 PM

    Like the signing, not much risk and an upside worth the gamble. Bravo to Rizzo. JT in SC

  7. Steve M. - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:26 PM

    Mark Zuckerman said…If everything goes according to plan — and obviously, you can't assume this — the Nats' Opening Day 2011 rotation could feature Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan, Jason Marquis and Chien-Ming Wang. That's the kind of rotation that can make a legitimate postseason run. And it doesn't even take into account the possible development of other young arms like Ross Detwiler, Craig Stammen, Scott Olsen, Garrett Mock, J.D. Martin, Collin Balester, Matt Chico and Brad Meyers.Excellent points Mark! The beauty of 2011 is there is no more Cristian Guzman and his $8 million salary where the Nats can make better decisions in the middle of their infield.If they sign Adam Dunn to an extension, you can really start to see that 2011 is a possible contending year!

  8. An Briosca Mor - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    I fully understand why the Nats signed Wang. What I will never understand, though, is why they signed Daniel Cabrera.

  9. greg - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    i think what's most important about signing wang over one of the other 'returning from injury' guys is the fact that wang still has a year of arbitration control left. there's no risk of *having* to pay for year two, but the option to offer arbitration instead of losing him makes it like an option year w/o having to negotiate it ahead of time. most of those other guys are pure 1 and done deals. and mark… mark…"The prospect of a healthy Wang in 2011…" you went there.

  10. Anonymous - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:49 PM

    "…credible throughout the Far East, opening the door for future signings of big-name players who previously might not have considered coming to the Nats."How about the Nats offering a pile of money to Japan for the rights for Yu Darvish, this guy was by far the most impressive baseball pitcher that I saw at last year World Baseball Classic.Top of the rotation stuff- I can dream, can't I?

  11. Steve M. - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    An Briosca Mor said… I fully understand why the Nats signed Wang. What I will never understand, though, is why they signed Daniel Cabrera.While some people want to blame Jim Bowden for Daniel Cabrera, in actuality it was Manny Acta who made the suggestion to bring him to Washington. Sure, Jim had to like the idea–Manny put him on the radar and An Briosca Mor is correct, WHY!!!Next time you see Jim Bowden at a bar, get him a few drinks and ask him some time about Daniel Cabrera or maybe he will tell you on his XM Radio show. Jim is becoming the Teflon man. Hopefully Kearns buys him a great Christmas gift and birthday present every year.

  12. peric - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:54 PM

    When your starting rotation features Marquis and Lannan 1 and 2? Might as well look ahead to 2011 unless a miracle break out of multiple young arms occurs. And that fool Ladson had better be wrong. Strasburg needs a good year down in the minors with peers like Trevor Holder. He needs to ramp that arm up to a 200 inning season slowly … SF has a great starting rotation improved with the addition of Baumgardner their best pitching prospect. They are predicted to have a .500 season. I think the Nats might get there with that one missing arm. But it should not be Strasburg and it isn't Wang.

  13. natsfan1a - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:56 PM

    Thanks for the insights, Mark. I hadn't thought of the international angle.

  14. Steve M. - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:56 PM

    The Cleveland Indians have so little to talk about this off-season that one of their key pickups is Austin Kearns and he is reunited with Manny Acta.All they need now is to sign Felipe Lopez and Jim Bowden as a GM!

  15. Steve M. - Feb 16, 2010 at 9:08 PM

    Mark Z. – Can you give us a pulse now of where the Nats payroll stands?Rizzo seems to be building towards 2011. Do you think they sign Adam Dunn to a couple year extension to keep that continuity?If they do sign Dunn to an extension and with Cristian Guzman out of contract and shaving that $8,000,000 contract, the Nats only immediate needs for 2011 will be to get a shortstop and re-bolster the bullpen since so many guys in the bullpen were on 1 year deals. Of course the Nats need to see how the starters do in 2010. Do you agree Mark?

  16. court - Feb 16, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    peric… Strasburg has no peers. At least not in the minors.

  17. Mark Zuckerman - Feb 16, 2010 at 9:19 PM

    Steve M.: Projected payroll currently stands around $65 million. Obviously, that number can change, and it only represents what the Nats would pay if the 25 guys (plus players on the DL) who open the season on the roster remain there all year with no changes and no incentives reached (which never happens).I expect Dunn extension talks to heat up this spring. Certainly sounds like both sides want to get something done.As for needs next winter, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. You're assuming Morgan and Dukes solidify their places in the lineup, Dunn re-signs, Willingham isn't traded … far too many variables to think about that right now.

  18. An Briosca Mor - Feb 16, 2010 at 10:01 PM

    This franchise has boasted only two Asian players in its five years in the District: Tomo Ohka of Japan and Sun-Woo Kim of South Korea.But their Pacific Rim presence has been wider than that. Don't forget Chris Snelling of Australia!

  19. Sasskuash - Feb 16, 2010 at 10:43 PM

    Re: 2011 PayrollYes, Guzman is coming off the books, but that $$ will more than be replaced by filling holes, potential extensions and arbitration numbers. 1)Dunn will probably need at least the $12 Mill he's getting this year to re-sign. If Dunn does not re-sign, the Nats have to replace him via FA. (I'm not counting on Marrero to be anything special at this point). 2) Willingham, Dukes and Morgan are all due for arbitration increases if they are around. If they are not around, they will have to be replaced via FA. I am not crazy about the OF we have backing up the guys on that list who are question marks to be offered arb. 3) We still have to sign a FA MI next year. Hopefully Desmond and/or Espinosa are ready, but I don't think its safe to rely on 2 minor leaguers a full year ahead of time. Neither of them can play 2B currently, and I would want a veteran capable of starting backing them up just in case… 4)Pitchers Lannan, Wang, and Olsen are all arb. eligable next year. We don't know if JZimm will be healthy. We haven't seen proof that SS is truly THE answer at the MLB level. That's a lot of "ifs" for our playoff-caliber rotation. We might have to replace some of those guys to non-tenders or injury or not meeting expectations. 5) FoF's deal is structured so his salary goes up next year from this year…My point is this team will definitely have a higher payroll next year than they do this year even with Guzman (finally) shipping out.

  20. Positively Half St. - Feb 16, 2010 at 11:06 PM

    I am among the excited folks for this one. I had also thought about the respect in Asia/signing Asian players angle. There is nothing that difficult about figuring that out, but I didn't see anyone else write about it like you did. Thanks for the payroll info; they we at $69M at the end of last season, so they didn't even make up for previous salary yet. I hope they are not done; I want to see Willingham traded for a solid young shortstop. Throw in a pitcher from our young marginals and either get a better one or a prospect as well.There is no reason to think Rizzo is done. Spring Training hasn't even begun.

  21. Andrew - Feb 17, 2010 at 12:18 AM

    Love the interaction you are bringing to this site. Great job Mark! This is what sets you apart from everyone else!

  22. Anonymous8 - Feb 17, 2010 at 12:30 AM

    PHS – Better to compare apples to apples with the Nats, and they were at $60,328,000 on Opening Day 2009.Also, with falling gate revenues, their salary to revenue ratio went up as a %. Does end of season salaries have all the September callups factored in?

  23. Wally - Feb 17, 2010 at 1:19 AM

    I like the signing because of the upside of CMW at full health and the 2011 control. Will he ever get all the way back? – who knows but it is worth the $2m flier, I think. Mark, I would be interested in knowing why the Nats medical guys thought that he could come back, if they offered any specific comments? I assume that many teams would pay $2m for a chance at the 2006 verion of CMW, even in this market. That no one else seemed even close begs the question of what do the Nats believe (medically speaking) that others don't? Don't misunderstand – I am not pessimistic. Although shoulder injuries have a pretty poor track record for pitchers, I think that rehab and sports injuries are still pretty much a crap shoot, so the nats could very well be right. I am certainly rooting that way. I am just curious if they offered any reasoning why they believed that he will come all the way back.But he needs to be looked at this year as a bonus, not a reliable component. I hadn't thought of the Asian promotion, and agree that there is probably some benefit there but not an enormous amount. I think that has to come from a presence on the ground and signing a stream of guys over time. Hopefully 2010 is the year that Rizzo addresses that organizationally. I mean, geez, he has already been in the job for like 6 months, hasn't he?

  24. Will - Feb 17, 2010 at 1:44 AM

    A lot of stuff would have to go right for a rotation of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Lannan, Marquis and Wang to be a playoff rotation in 2011.Zimmermann is coming off major elbow surgery. Strasburg has yet to pitch an inning in professional ball. Wang- we're all aware of his question marks.Even optimistically, does that rotation stack up with Halladay, Hamels, Blanton and Happ? What about Jurrjens, Lowe, Hanson and Kawakami, or even Johnson, Nolasco, West and Volstad?There's a good chance our 2011 rotation could be very good, but there's probably an even greater chance Zimm never fully recovers, Strasburg never truly lives up to his potential and Wang never regains the touch he had in '07.

  25. Anonymous - Feb 17, 2010 at 2:10 AM

    Wally – Drew Brees had a devastating shoulder surgery and you saw his comeback. Dr. Andrews and Dr. Yocum do amazing surgeries and when they give the thumbs up that says a lot.I am more concerned about nerve damage and when they can't find anything wrong.

  26. natbiscuit - Feb 17, 2010 at 2:20 AM

    So Mark, Is Rizzo done yet? If Smoltz came down off his asking price would they sign him? What about the Benson rumors?

  27. bknight47 - Feb 17, 2010 at 3:01 AM

    Great article Mark, on breaking down why this signing makes sense. I think the Nats are also on the right track. To many fans who are disappointed with what has gone on in the past it may not seem like much at all. "Rome was not built in day" neither will our Nats.

  28. Anonymous - Feb 17, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    I still think the Nats need to be in a position of having too much starting pitching. I know Livan has his hittability issues but he eats innings. ANd we know have some offense to offset an ugly 7IP 11H 5ER outing. We need to save and stretch out the young arms and not rely on them so much Lannan included. Hernandez is healthy and reliable. Benson is another injury risk. Looper and Washburn are healthy too and can eat innings. Heck bring back a hungry Odalis Perez to prove us wrong.

  29. greg - Feb 17, 2010 at 5:45 PM

    meh. nats fans need to get past this livan obsession. the livan of old was an innings eater. the livan of today is not. he's not going to average 7 ip/start and his era is closer to 6 than 5 now. he hasn't been a 5 era guy since 2007. it's not 2005 any more. let's move on from livan.

  30. Leslie - Mar 24, 2010 at 4:24 AM

    Go Nats… Go Wang…

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