It's fair to wonder if the New York Yankees could have already resolved all of their pitching needs before the Masahiro Tanaka posting situation is completed.
The New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand tweets that the posting process for Tanaka will last until January 24. Being proactive with the free-agent starting pitching market would have given the Yankees all of the freedom and flexibility that they could have wanted.
Instead they are in limbo, waiting on Tanaka.
If the Yankees had chosen to move in a different direction this winter, they could have taken the $153 million they spent on Jacoby Ellsbury and turned that money into signing two free-agent starting pitchers. Feinsand was the first to report the Ellsbury signing. New York would also have had the money left over to sign a closer.
There are three top-tier starters on the market besides Tanaka. Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez all make sense for New York on some level. The Record's Bob Klapisch tweeted that the Yankees weren't interested in Garza or Jimenez, but that could be posturing.
If the Yankees were aggressive, they could make the group similar three- or four-year offers. All three pitchers have received interest from around MLB, but they are stuck waiting while the Tanaka situation is resolved. If presented with a better option than waiting for Tanaka to pick a team, the agents for these starters might be willing to get something done now.
By trying to sign two of the three pitchers now, the Yankees would dramatically improve their rotation over the group that ended last season.
For example, if the Yankees signed Garza and Santana, they would have two younger arms to add to an older group of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and the younger Ivan Nova. Garza wouldn't require the Yankees to sacrifice any draft-pick compensation.
The 29-year-old Jimenez has a career record of 82-75 with an ERA of 3.92 and has made over 30 starts in each of the past six seasons. Garza, who has just recently turned 30, has a career record of 67-67 and has struggled to stay healthy in recent seasons. Garza did pitch well during his three seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays dealing with the AL East. The 31-year-old Santana has the best stuff of the three pitchers and has the most career wins with a record of 105-90.
If the Yankees signed two starters and still wanted to remain in play for Tanaka, they could simply look to move Nova to fill a long-term need at shortstop, outfield or second base if need be. Nova would have a lot of immediate value on the trade market and would allow the Yankees to bring in a younger position player or two, something the franchise desperately needs.
By trying to sign two of the Garza, Jimenez and Santana group, the Yankees could still have money left over fill vacancies at the back end of the bullpen and the middle infield.
Signing a closer like Fernando Rodney or Grant Balfour would have been insurance for David Robertson as he assumes the closer mantle from Mariano Rivera. The Baltimore Orioles recently backed out of a two-year deal with Balfour worth $15 million. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal has a complete recap of the botched signing here.
The Yankees are considered to be the favorites for Tanaka, and the New York Post's Joel Sherman breaks down the competition for New York here.
If Tanaka signs elsewhere, the Yankees need to make sure that they are not left out of the starting pitching market completely.