Chien-Ming Wang is a member of the World Champion New York Yankees, for now.
The 29-year-old right-handed starter is eligible for arbitration this winter and the Yankees have until the December 12 deadline to offer him a contract for next season, something that doesn’t appear likely.
Wang, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, made $5 million last season after signing a one-year deal to avoid arbitration and is under team control for two more seasons.
It is largely rumored that the Yankees aren’t expected to offer him a contract, thus making him a free agent.
It is quite a different world for Wang than it was a year and a half ago when he was one of the best starters in baseball.
Heading into play on June 15, 2008, Wang had a career record of 54-20 with a 3.79 ERA. He’d finished second in the 2006 Cy Young voting and had won 19 games twice.
Unfortunately, that would be the end of Wang’s success.
During an interleague game against the Houston Astros, Wang tore a tendon and a ligament in his right foot while rounding the bases and was lost for the remainder of the year.
When he returned this season, he wasn’t the same pitcher he’d been prior to the injury.
Wang started the season by getting shelled in his first three outings. In just six innings pitched, he gave up 23 hits and 23 earned runs.
The Yankees placed him on the disabled list believing that his ineffectiveness was lingering effects of the foot injury.
Upon his return he was used out of the bullpen for a stretch and then returned to the rotation where he continued to struggle with his command.
He was lost for good on July 4 with a capsule tear in his shoulder. He had surgery on July 29 and isn’t expected back in the majors until the middle of next season.
Wang’s finished this season with 1-6 record to go with a dreadful 9.64 ERA in just twelve games, nine of them starts.
What’s worse is that it seemed as though Wang was finally beginning to get it together before suffering the season-ending shoulder injury.
He’d pitched at least five innings in four straight starts and allowed three or fewer runs in four of his last five starts.
For now, Wang—and 29 other teams—must wait to see whether or not the Yankees let him walk or if they will try to bring him back on a minor league deal.
If the Yankees do decide to let him go, the list of suitors figures to be a lengthy one.
Any team that is willing to invest time into his rehabilitation could probably have the right-hander on short-term, incentive-laden contract.
If the Yankees let him walk, Wang can expect a flurry of phone calls on December 13.
Until then all he can do is wait and bask in the melancholy afterglow of being a World Champion, who was unable to contribute to the effort.