Outside of Robinson Cano and potential trade chips David Price and Max Scherzer, the prize of the offseason was expected to be Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka.
Expected to be posted this winter by the Rakuten Golden Eagles, there is a chance the 25-year-old could be spending another year in Japan as Major League Baseball has yet to come to terms on proposed changes to the posting process.
Earlier this month, our own MLB Lead Writer Zach Rymer took an in-depth look at the posting process and some potential changes that could be made moving forward. Giving some of the posting money to players rather than the team and allowing the top three bidders to negotiate rather than just be the top bidder were among proposed changes.
For one reason or another, teams have balked at accepting the newly proposed system, and in the end, that could lead to no one being posted by Japanese teams this offseason.
This certainly hurts Tanaka, who was expected to command close to, if not more than, the six-year, $56 million salary that Yu Darvish received from the Rangers after they paid a $51.7 million posting fee to negotiate with him two years ago.
It also hurts Rakuten, as Tanaka would have almost certainly netted them a posting fee north of $50 million, with Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reporting that the top bid could wind up exceeding $100 million.
In the end, though, the team hurt biggest by this news could be the New York Yankees, who were viewed by most as the frontrunners to land Tanaka.
Since posting fees don't count against the luxury tax cap, the Yankees were expected to bid through the roof to earn negotiating rights, while still potentially giving Tanaka an annual salary less than the $12 million they paid for Andy Pettitte last year.
The Tanaka signing was all part of a potential $300 million spending spree that Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York outlined back in mid-October. The team was also expected to shoot for re-signing Robinson Cano, while bringing in either Brian McCann or Carlos Beltran to bolster the offense.
With just CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova currently under contract from the 2013 rotation, the Yankees will certainly need to address the pitching this offseason. Veteran Hiroki Kuroda may still be re-signed, but Pettitte has retired and Phil Hughes will likely walk in free agency.
While Tanaka does not come as highly touted as Darvish, he was still expected to be a frontline-caliber arm here in the States. Also, at just 25, he'd bring some much-needed youth to the Yankees roster.
The right-hander was an incredible 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 212 innings of work for the Golden Eagles this past season, and he is undoubtedly the top arm in the NPB right now.
So where do the Yankees go from here, if in fact Tanaka winds up staying in Japan another year?
One option would be to cap their spending this offseason and gearing up for Tanaka potentially being posted next winter. But after missing the postseason for just the second time since 1994, the Yankees are no doubt looking to make a splash to turn things around in 2014.
The starting pitching market is relatively thin, but there is a trio of arms that would certainly help out in New York near the top of the rotation.
|Top Free Agent Starting Pitchers|
|Matt Garza (29)||24 GS, 10-6, 3.82 ERA, 1.236 WHIP, 136 K, 155.1 IP|
|Ubaldo Jimenez (29)||32 GS, 13-9, 3.30 ERA, 1.330 WHIP, 194 K, 182.2 IP|
|Ervin Santana (30)||32 GS, 9-10, 3.24 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, 161 K, 211 IP|
After those three guys, the dropoff is sharp, and chances are it will take a contract approaching $100 million (or above) to bring them aboard.
Beyond those three, veterans Bartolo Colon, A.J. Burnett and Bronson Arroyo are well past their primes at this point.
Mid-level arms like Ricky Nolasco, Scott Kazmir and Dan Haren could also potentially help, but they are far from the offseason splash the team is looking for.
If Masahiro Tanaka is not posted, it really comes down to whether the Yankees are willing to wait until he eventually is, or if they're desperate enough to settle for perhaps a pair of mid-level arms to fill out the rotation instead.
Regardless of what they decide, this news has certainly thrown a wrench into their grand offseason plans. It may be back to the drawing board when it comes to shaping the 2014 Yankees roster for a run at a title.