I have spoken at length about Chien-Ming Wang in the past, but I wanted to comment on and commend both the Nationals and Wang for coming to an agreement late last week on a 1-year deal for $4 million dollars plus incentives for 2012. It was said that Mike Rizzo really wanted a club option for 2013 included in the contract, though Wang did not agree to that demand, likely in exchange for not testing free agency or holding out for a multi-year commitment. Most expected Wang to re-sign with the Nationals but I was surprised he received $4 million guaranteed, I anticipated he would command closer to $2 million in base salary, with more tied to incentives.
Still, the Nationals are making an educated gamble with Wang as he returned last season and pitched fairly well, especially his last few starts- if he stays reasonably healthy next season but does not increase his velocity or find some additional sink to his pitches, he should more than earn his salary eating innings at the back-end of the starting rotation. However, if Wang can find an addition 1-2mph and/or two to three more inches of downward sink on his sinker this winter with additional strength training and recovery, he immediately becomes an impressive middle-of-the-rotation caliber pitcher and would be worth two to three times his salary. That is a gamble any team would make from their 5th starter and a nice wager for $4 million dollars. This is a good signing for the Nationals by only making a 1-year commitment, and good for Wang to receive such a healthy guarantee – excellent deal by both sides.
Overall Grade: B to B+
Also late last week, the Nationals exposed bench player Brian Bixler to waivers, in an attempt to free up a spot on the 40-man roster, but unfortunately he was claimed in the process by the Houston Astros. There go my chances at perfectly predicting the National’s moves this off-season. I thought Brian would stick with the organization throughout this winter and find his way onto the roster next season with his defensive versatility, speed, and cheap salary. Bixler is a nice asset off any National League bench, as he can capably play five positions and is a valuable pinch runner, but Davey Johnson has expressed a desire for more offensive firepower from his bench next season, something Bixler does not provide. I will never be critical of any organization exposing and losing a utility infielder, but I expect Bixler to earn a job somewhere next season as a bench player.
Overall Grade: C-
While the focus will consistently be on the Washington Nationals here at NatsGM, from time to time I will comment on some of the hot stove trades and signings this off-season. One deal that caught my attention occurred Monday when the San Francisco Giants traded LHP Jonathan Sanchez and a LHP prospect Ryan Verdugo to Kansas City for OF Melky Cabrera. I have long been a fan of both Sanchez and Cabrera far more than the general consensus, and found this trade rather interesting.
Kansas City acquired the 29 year old left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, a pitcher who has always had a strong K/9 ratio but struggles to throw strikes, walks too many hitters and thus, does not pitch particularly deep into games. Because he is left-handed and strikes people out, many have assumed, including myself, that Sanchez would harness his control and eventually develop into a #2 or #3 starting pitcher, however, at his age, it is fair to say he is what he is: a decent to solid #4 starter with below-average control who should bounce back this season after a lousy 2011. With center field prospect Lorenzo Cain prepared to take over for Cabrera on Opening Day, the Royals will fill Cabrera’s position internally, while acquiring a desperately needed starting pitcher to slot in their starting rotation and a solid relief prospect as well. This is a nice trade with some upside by Royals GM Dayton Moore.
San Francisco traded from their starting pitching surplus in order to fill a need in their outfield by trading for Melky Cabrera. Cabrera has been a bit of an enigma in his career, having stretches of terrific play with the Yankees and Royals but has severely underachieved at times as well, most specifically for Atlanta in 2010 . He is a below-average defender in center field but makes up for it with a solid left-handed bat. I do not think Melky is a great fit in center field for the Giants, as their home ballpark AT&T Park has one of the biggest outfields in baseball and his below average range and speed are not ideal. In fact, the projected outfield of Aubrey Huff in Left, Cabrera in Center, and Nate Schierholtz in Right would be one of the worst defensively in recent memory. However, the Giants desperately needed to improve their lineup this winter, and Cabrera is a nice upgrade offensively over Andres Torres. Still, I am surprised Giants GM Brian Sabean was forced to include a reasonable pitching prospect, LHP Ryan Verdugo, in the deal as Sanchez should have been more than adequate. Thus, I disagree with this trade from San Francisco’s prospective and as much as I like Melky Cabrera, I would have continued searching for a better offer.
Overall Grade: Kansas City -> B- San Francisco -> C-
This “Tip of the Fedora” goes out to Mike Axisa, Tim Dierkes, and everyone at MLBTradeRumors.com – thank you for including my 2-Part series last week into your weekly Baseball Blogs Weigh In column last Friday. This is a must-read piece every Friday for me, as it highlights the best writing on the various baseball blogs on the internet. Also, this website is the best baseball rumors site on the internet, so if you are interested in keeping up with the Hot Stove rumors of your favorite club this winter, I recommend bookmarking their website, and following them on Twitter @MLBTradeRumors. Thanks again!
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