It was expected that the KC Royals would bring in a pitcher at some point in time, even if it was a reclamation project. Chien-Ming Wang certainly counts as such.
Perhaps the announcement was lost because the KC Royals had signed Alex Gordon during the previous day, and that was going to dominate the coverage. Or, perhaps we did not notice because it was a minor league signing. However, on January 7th, the Royals signed Chien-Ming Wang to a minor league contract.
Should Wang make the major league roster, he would have a $1 Million base salary, with an additional $1.5 Million in incentives as a starter, or an additional $250,000 as a reliever. Considering that Wang has not pitched in the majors since 2013, he certainly has a tall task ahead of himself.
It is also a reminder of how far that Wang has fallen. There was a time when it seemed as though he was going to be among the better starters in the American League. He won 19 games in 2006 and 2007, leading the league in the fewest home runs per nine innings both season. His 19 victories in 2006 led the AL, and helped him finish second in the Cy Young Award ballot.
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In the midst of another strong season in 2008, Wang broke his foot while running the bases. The injury, which was expected to sideline him for six weeks continued to linger, as he did not pitch again that season. Wang struggled the following year, and missed the 2010 season after setbacks in his rehab from shoulder surgery the previous year.
Those injuries derailed his career. From the point that he broke his foot, Wang has posted an 8-14 record with a 6.60 ERA and a 1.715 WHiP in 163.2 innings. He has not pitched in the majors since a six game stint in 2013, and has struggled in the minor leagues. Last season, pitching in both the Mariners and Braves systems, Wang posted a 6-11 record with 5.88 ERA and a 1.692 WHiP despite his shutout on August 15th.
The Royals have had success with pitchers who missed a great deal of time due to injury or had lost their effectiveness. Just last year, they received solid contributions from Ryan Madson and Joe Blanton, even if the latter did not end the season in Kansas City. Should Dave Eiland be able to work his magic yet again, Wang could find himself as another underwhelming signing who turned out to be a key piece in the Royals success.
Chances are, Chien-Ming Wang will serve as AAA depth for the KC Royals, mentoring their young pitchers. However, if there is any team that could find whatever is left of Wang’s ability, it may well be the Royals.