Cincinnati Reds sign Chien-Ming Wang to minor league deal

According to Peter Wang, the Reds have signed former New York Yankee Chien-Ming Wang to a minor league deal for 2014. If he makes the 25-man roster his contract becomes a 1-year, $1.25M deal. He also got an invite to spring training.

In 2013 he spent his season with the Blue Jays organization. At the Major League level he really struggled, posting a 7.67 ERA in 2013 over just 27 innings. In 2012 it wasn’t much better as he posted a 6.68 ERA in limited action with the Nationals. In the minor leagues his ERA was much better, posting a combined 2.87 ERA at AA/AAA in 109.2 innings pitched. Of course, that ERA comes with other numbers as well. He walked just 22 batters, which is very good. He also struck out just 55 batters, which is well below-average. His strikeout rate in the Majors has been similar, but his walk rate has been much higher.

With a low strikeout rate, what does Wang bring to the table? Groundballs, and lots of them. In 2013 he generated 59% of the ball put in play against him on the ground, where the league average is just about 46%. That has been his strength for his entire career. When he was pitching well for the Yankees he was generating a ton of grounders and keeping the ball in the park. However once 2009 rolled around,while he was still able to turn out the groundballs at a high rate, his home run rate nearly tripled, going from elite to well below-average (at the Major League level).

Wang sits in the 90-92 MPH range with his sinker these days (used to sit 92-94). He scrapped his 4-seam fastball at the Major League level in 2013 and over the past few years has added a curveball that he didn’t throw when he was younger. Wang reminds me a bit of Greg Reynolds who the Reds signed last year. A fringe stuff guy who gets a lot of grounders and can throw strikes. He just adds some extra insurance with a little bit of upside if he can get back to where he was in 2005-2008.

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