UPDATE, 7:10 p.m.: Chien-Ming Wang’s agent, Alan Nero, confirmed that the Nationals have yet to reach a deal with Wang, but they are clearly closing in on one. “I’m optimistic that we will come to agreement in the next few days,” he said.
UPDATE, 6:45 p.m.: The Nationals are “progressing but not near a deal” with Chien-Ming Wang, a Nationals official with knowledge of the negotiations said this evening. Sports Illustrated reported the sides have a deal in principle for one year, but the official said that is not the case.
The bottom line, based on what Wang’s agent, Alan Nero, said, remains the same. The Nationals and Wang seemed just about certain to strike a deal sometime soon that will keep Wang with the Nationals.
ORIGINAL POST: The Nationals remain in contract talks with starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, whose agent remains optimistic he will ultimately sign with the Nationals.
The status of the talks between the Nationals and Wang are “the same,” said Alan Nero, Wang’s agent. “We’re progressing slowly. There’s no sense of urgency. We’re working on it. We’re confident we’ll get something done.”
The Nationals’ window of negotiating exclusivity will expire at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, at which point every team will be able offer Wang a contract. With teams currently able to make limited contact with free agents, six teams have inquired about Wang, Nero said. But Wang has insisted he wants to repay the Nationals for their support as he rehabbed from right shoulder surgery over the entirety of the 2010 season and for much of 2011.
“At this point, we’re in good-faith negotiations with the Nats,” Nero said. “We’re confident that we’ll get it done. If something breaks down, that’s another situation. We don’t anticipate that happening.”
Among their eight free agents, the Nationals appear most intent on finalizing a deal with Wang. It’s key for them to finish the Wang deal relatively soon. With Wang in the fold, the Nationals can move forward in the offseason knowing they have six or seven capable starting pitchers* for next season. It would allow them flexibility to trade a starter for a center fielder, if they want to. And it would give them an idea how their rotation would look if they pursue a free agent pitcher.
If the deal gets done, it sounds like it will come after the completion of the Taiwan Series, in which Wang is playing for his native country against a team of MLB players. The games began Tuesday and will continue until Sunday.
“His focus is there,” Nero said. “We’ll take it day by day. At the moment, things are progressing normally.”
The Nationals have paid Wang approximately $5.5 million over the past two seasons on a pair of one-year contracts. After making his Nationals debut at the end of July, Wang went 4-3 with 4.04 ERA over 11 starts. As the season wore on, his sinker regained some of the sharp movement that made it, Wang’s peak, one of the toughest pitches to hit in all of baseball.
*I’m counting Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan, Ross Detwiler, Brad Peacock, Tom Milone and Wang. The Nationals also control the rights to Tom Gorzelanny, who’s eligible for arbitration. But considering he ended the year in the bullpen, it’s hard to envision him fitting in the Nationals’ rotation plans.