With Masahiro Tanaka finally signing with the New York Yankees, the rest of the free-agent market is set to fall behind him like a row of dominoes
But before we get to all that, here's more info on the Tanaka deal, via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
BREAKING: Tanaka to #Yankees, seven years, $155M, opt-out after fourth year.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 22, 2014
So now the floodgates will conceivably open, and some of the big names remaining on the market are rubbing their hands gleefully together, knowing they are about to get paid. So which players should be scooped up off the market next?
Let's take a look at some of the latest rumors in Major League Baseball.
Nelson Cruz, OF
Nelson Cruz is the biggest bat remaining on the market, but teams remain tepid about signing the slugger. Why?
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe has that answer:
Teams are staying away because salary demands still haven’t come down quite enough, according to one National League general manager. Cruz, who requires a team to give up a draft pick, may have to settle for a pillow contract of one year to reestablish value. Right now, teams are trying to get him for a bargain price, while he is trying to get his true worth even after his 50-game PED suspension, which he served last season. Cruz’s righthanded power still makes a lot of sense for a few teams. The Orioles were one, but their recent acquisition of Delmon Young may squash that.
Despite missing 50 games last year, Cruz still hit .266 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI. He's hit at least 22 more home runs and 76 RBI in the last five seasons.
But with last year's suspension, his high salary demands and the fact that he is 33, teams have remained justifiably wary of bringing Cruz aboard. The short-term benefits of adding a middle-of-the-lineup bat are obvious, but only at the right price.
And to this point, it would appear the price is still far too high for teams.
Matt Garza, SP
Matt Garza is likely the next player to drop in free agency with Tanaka off the board, but like Cruz, his contract demands have teams approaching him with hesitation.
Cafardo has more:
Garza is a non-compensation free agent, but teams have been reluctant to pony up a four- or five-year deal. Garza may have to settle for fewer years even with the price of pitching very high. “There may be concerns about him physically,” said one AL executive. “I think most teams are thinking four or five years is just too risky, even if he’s a no-compensation guy.”
Garza is coming off of a 10-6 season with 136 strikeouts, a 3.82 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. For contending teams, he's a solid No. 3 option in the rotation and an excellent possibility as a team's fourth option. At 30, he still has plenty of good years ahead of him, though a four- or five-year deal doesn't seem appealing given his limited ceiling.
Stephen Drew, IF
Why, you might ask? Martino explains:
Here’s one speculative question posed by a rival executive about the Yankees: If they sign Masahiro Tanaka and blow by the $189 million limit, will they take another look at Stephen Drew—who, as Scott Boras told us last week, is willing to listen to teams that plan to use him at multiple positions? Drew as a shortstop, third baseman and second baseman is exactly what the Yankees need.
There is no action there right now, but it was a good point that the exec raised: It seems like a fit.
The thinking is simple—the Yankees are already well above the $189 million mark, so why stop improving the club? Drew would give the team a ton of versatility in the infield and a player with a bit of pop for the middle infield when he manages to stay healthy.
The Yankees are as weak at third base and second base as they've been in years, so adding Drew to the mix would at least ramp up the competition at those positions, if not represent an immediate upgrade. And Derek Jeter isn't getting any younger, so having another player who can fill in at the position makes sense.
As per the long-rumored interest between the New York Mets and Drew, Martino notes that the Mets will continue to take a wait-and-see approach to Drew, presumably hoping they can sign him from the bargain bin if another team fails to scoop him up.
One way or another, however, don't be shocked if Drew ends up in New York, be it for the Yankees or Mets.