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Chien-Ming Wang hopes to return to Nationals

By Adam Kilgore

I'm down in Orlando for the annual General Manager Meetings, where things have been pretty quiet so far this morning/early afternoon. Mike Rizzo will meet with reporters early this evening, so I'll have some updates from that later on at the very least.

For now, I've got a quick update on where the Nats stand with Chien-Ming Wang. The Nationals were disappointed and surprised Wang's surgically repaired right shoulder never healed enough for him to pitch in 2010, but they acquired Wang last offseason with the knowledge the biggest potential payoff would come in 2011. The Nationals still control Wang's rights and have the option to bring him next year - and Wang wants to remain with the organization.

"We're all hoping we can work something out for him to be with the Nationals in 2011," said Alan Nero, Wang's representative.

The Nationals and Nero have been in talks about bringing Wang back. The most likely scenario is that the Nationals will reach a one-year deal with Wang that pays him less than what he would make in arbitration.

"It all remains to be seen," Nero said. "We don't know for sure what the market for him would be. He's a special player. We're optimistic he'll be healthy. Our goal for this year is to work something out with the Nationals."

Wang made his biggest strides in the fall, in the instructional league in Viera, Fla. He pitched in two games, hitting 86 miles per hour with his fastball in a one-inning stint. A few days later, he pitched two innings and hit 89 with his fastball.

"He was just getting his strength back," Nationals rehab pitching coordinator Mark Grater said. "I don't know how it would be for him competing every fifth day. That's the big question."

Wang is currently not throwing, just exercising instead at home, still trying to strengthen his shoulder. Wang, at least, will be able to throw once spring training arrives. It's not certain he'll be 100 percent and ready to begin a normal preseason program.

"It's possible, but there's a lot of questions, too," Grater said. "He works his butt off, so I wouldn't put it past him. He shows up on time and does his work. He wants to get better."

Last season, Wang made $2 million with several incentives, none of which, obviously, were reached. Wang would technically be due a raise from that salary with the arbitration process, but he would likely have to accept less money in a one-year contract with more incentives. In arbitration, Wang could be docked no more than 20 percent on a one-year contract, meaning the Nationals would have to pay him at least at least $1.6 million if they go to arbitration. Since Wang hasn't pitched since mid-2009, the most likely outcome would be the Nationals agreeing with Wang on a one-year deal for less money and more incentives. Wang will be a free agent following the 2011 season.

By Adam Kilgore  | November 16, 2010; 1:04 PM ET
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How can he be eligible for much of anything in arbitration? I mean, I know it's not his fault but still, I sure wish my boss would give me two million bucks for not showing up to work.

Posted by: RIP-21 | November 16, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Adam & other posters will have much more detailed answers to your question but I believe I read earlier in the year that the arbitration will be based on his last full salary and not the $2 million we paid him. Its part of the bargaining agreement and I think if he went to arbitration it would be a much higher payout than the $2 million this past year.

Posted by: sjm3091 | November 16, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure that I'd say that Wang is "due" a raise, he'd be eligible for one under the terms of the arbitration agreement. That said, if I was the Nats, I'd either sign him before the arbitration deadline, or cut him lose. I wouldn't want to give a raise to a player who spent the year rehabbing. I'm not syaing that he stole the money and I'm not saying he should be happy to take what the Nats offer. But I think he has to be reasonable given how fairly the Nats treated him last year.

Posted by: comish4lif | November 16, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I presume the Nats want Wang. If so, they have to sign him at something north of $2M, because he will easily command that kind of money as a FA if he is close to healthy. I am not sure what Wang would be looking at in arb -- maybe a $500K raise? Would the Nats really be willing to let the guy walk away over relatively small coins (compared to the guy's upside value)?

They should just sign the guy at $2.4M and be done. If they don't cut a deal and don't offer arb, then if Wang is healthy (he'll have a few months to show the world he can pitch and, if he can), he'll likely get a lot more than $2.5M, no?

AK -- ask Rizzo if he feels pressure to put a winning club on the field in 2011. And if he says anything other than "Hell yes!", please, respectfully, punch him in the stomach for me and ask him to deliver that same message to Mr. Lerner too.

Posted by: dfh21 | November 16, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I think you spend the $ to bring him back but don't count on him for anything; too many quality SPs is a luxury this team has never had. Plus, with all the inevitable arm injuries, the 5 you start the season with won't be the 5 you finish the year with.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | November 16, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Easy call for the Nats. They sign him. They've have monitored his progress and believe him to be healthy enough to be at least a decent starter by mid season. Plus, if he gets somewhere close to his prior form, they'll be first in line for a longer term deal.

The Nats desire a healthy Wang.

Posted by: shanks1 | November 17, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

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