According to multiple sources including Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Yankees and Masahiro Tanaka have agreed to a seven year, $155 million deal. The deal reportedly includes an opt out clause for Tanaka after four years.
Tanaka was the prized pitching prospect in this year’s free agent market despite the fact that he has never stepped on an MLB mound. At 25 years old he is considered by many to be a great fit for any ballclub coming off of his 24-0, 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeout season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japan Pacific League.
Tanaka will join a Yankee rotation that desperately needs him. Tanaka will join CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda. Even if he is less than what some project he should serve as an upgrade to the options the Yankees currently had.
With the signing of Tanaka the other shoe of the free agent pitching market should begin to drop. Expect movement by the Rangers, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Angels and maybe even Baltimore. All these teams have pitching holes to fill and not they have no surprises waiting. It is time for the franchises to go shopping.
Players like Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana should all find new addresses in the very near future. But where will they go? The obvious team out of the mix for any of the remaining free agent pitchers is the New York Yankees but I suspect Brian Cashman is okay with that.
Possible Signing Locations: Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Angels
Matt Garza is a quality arm when healthy but pitched only 155 innings in 2013 and 103 innings in 2012 due to injury. While his velocity has stayed consistent despite injury, his ERA has been steadily climbing in recent memory so giving up a four year deal with that risk would scare some teams. If he can stay healthy there is a great chance he will provide front of the rotation help to almost any team. A big risk vs. reward for any team taking a chance on Garza is obvious.
A team that has not been shy spending over the last couple of years and would not need Garza to lead them would be the Angels where he can fit nicely behind Jared Weaver and CJ Wilson. Another fit might be Baltimore who needs a quality arm but past history implies that the Orioles front office is not keen on four year pitching deals especially for players with history. At the end of the day I think Southern California is where he will land.
Possible Signing Locations: Arizona Diamondbacks
Ervin Santana managed a career low ERA of 3.24 last season while playing for the Kansas City Royals (a nice free agent year move) while pitching at least 178 innings in each of the past four seasons with three topping 200. He is not a number one but is a quality number two or three pitcher in many rotations. He comes with a veteran presence and could really help out a young rotation.
A pitcher like this would be a perfect fit in Arizona where the Diamondbacks have a crop of young talent but not much of a veteran presence outside of Trevor Cahill, who is young himself. Adding Santana to a rotation that would include Cahill, Patrick Corbin and others would make sense. The worst the Diamondbacks would get is an inning eater which is never a bad thing.
Possible Signing Locations: Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners
Jimenez is the most intriguing of the three in my mind. He pitched solidly in the second half of last season but prior to that he had been a complete flop since moving to the American League. Since his transition he was 32-39 over the last three years and twice had an ERA over 4.60. Jimenez is a pitcher who loved his fastball but from 2011 to 2013 his fastball has lost almost two miles per hour (93.9 in 2011 to 92.1 in 2013). That decline in velocity will be a red flag to many.
I believe Jimenez will be the last of the three signed and I would not be surprised to see Baltimore take a flier on a two year deal in hope of a return on investment in the competitive American League East. If not in Baltimore, the Texas Rangers can afford to sign him to a one or two year deal and expect to get a number three or four starter out of him. Do not count out the surprisingly big spending Seattle Mariners. The have a solid first and second starter. Expecting Jimenez to fill in as a three or four would not be a bad move.
Expect the market to fly over the next week or so as the Tanaka fallout continues. Garza, Jimenez and Santana will all find homes and all will most likely pitch for a contender in 2014. Will it pay off for all sides? That is hard to predict but it just might happen.