Updates on All the Biggest Masahiro Tanaka Offseason Fallout
So the story was supposed to go like this: Masahiro Tanaka would pick a team, the floodgates that had brought the offseason to a halt would open and the best players still available would fly off the shelves.
Apparently, the baseball gods ordered a script re-write and forgot to tell us mere mortals.
Since Tanaka chose the New York Yankees as his new team on Jan. 22, only one free agent of note, right-handed starter Matt Garza, has found work, signing a four-year, $50 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, a team that wasn't even in the Tanaka sweepstakes.
Let's take a look at the latest updates for the teams that were in the running for Tanaka's services, and the free agents that were supposed to be set free once he signed.
While he has far more mileage on his arm than Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, 36-year-old Bronson Arroyo may be the most attractive starting pitcher left on the market for two reasons: Signing him won't cost a team their first-round draft pick, and he's as consistent a pitcher as you'll find in baseball.
That may make him a more intriguing target for the likes of Baltimore and Toronto, both known to have interest, and it's likely a big reason the Los Angeles Dodgers have looked into adding him to their already stacked rotation, as tweeted by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
In a separate report, Heyman says that the Los Angeles Angels have interest, but that they're content to enter spring training with the group of starters they have.
One team to keep an eye on is the Minnesota Twins, who have been linked to Arroyo for most of the offseason. Manager Ron Gardenhire told 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson recently that the team was making another run at a free agent.
Wolfson believes that Arroyo might be that guy, and I have to agree. It's no secret that the Twins are looking to add another established veteran to their rebuilt rotation, and they've been linked to Arroyo for months. Having already signed Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, Arroyo would be a perfect addition.
Which pitcher are teams getting in Ubaldo Jimenez? The version that pitched to a 2.61 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over his last 28 starts in 2013, or the one who struggled his way to a 5.31 ERA and 1.57 WHIP over his previous 42 starts for Cleveland, dating back to the July trade deadline in 2011?
Not knowing the answer to that question is one of the major reasons that Jimenez remains available, despite interest from the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, as reported by The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly and Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, respectively.
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told Nicholson-Smith that while his team will remain engaged with free agents, he doesn't believe that the waiting is over for some of the bigger names still available, like Jimenez:
“Some of these players that have draft pick compensation attached to them, it would not surprise me to see them go into February and even into March.”
That kind of speculation has reignited a fire under the premise that Jimenez would return to the Cleveland Indians. Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer believes that if Jimenez can't find a three- or four-year deal, that both Jimenez and the Indians would jump at the chance to reunite on a one-year, $14 million deal.
Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan tweeted last week that while Ervin Santana was looking for a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $60 million, the chances of him getting that deal were growing slim. After Matt Garza's four-year, $52 million deal with Milwaukee, those chances no longer exist.
Not only do sources tell The News Tribune's Bob Dutton that's the case, but that a three-year, $40 million deal might be Santana's ceiling, which would seemingly increase his list of potential suitors.
One team that probably won't jump into the fray is the Seattle Mariners, according to MLB.com's Greg Johns, who spoke with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik:
I don't think we're going to jump in and invest where some of these dollars are going. It just doesn't make sense when you take a 30-, 31-, 32-year old pitcher that wants five or six years and there is some history there of injury or inconsistencies. That's a pretty big risk, and I think we have to look at this in the big picture.
Baltimore and Toronto are known to have some level of interest in Santana, but unless Santana's asking price comes down substantially, it's hard to imagine either one parting with a first-round draft pick to sign a pitcher that, realistically, probably won't be enough to get them over the hump in the AL East.
After falling short in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes, Arizona isn't giving up its pursuit of a front-of-the-rotation starter, as GM Kevin Towers told Fox Sports' Jack Magruder:
We were looking to add a pitcher, an elite pitcher, a No. 1 or No. 2 starter, and Tanaka fit the bill. My job is still to try to improve the club. It doesn't stop because we didn't get Tanaka. If there is a pitcher that comes available via trade or free agency, that top-of-the-rotation type guy, we'll be aggressive and we'll be players.
The D-Backs have been linked to a number of potential trade candidates this winter, including Cincinnati's Homer Bailey and Chicago's Jeff Samardzija. But Towers believes more arms could become available:
"Things change," he told Magruder. "There might be players who 48 hours ago weren't available that are available now or at the end of the spring training or early in the season." That said, Towers realizes that the pitcher he wants may not be attainable:
We all know the elite pitchers, the 1s, there are not a lot of them out there. And even really solid No. 2s. They're hard to come by. If they don't present themselves and we have to start the season with the pitching staff we have, including one of the better young pitching prospects in the game, Archie Bradley, we will go that route.
Thus far, Bradley (pictured) has been off-limits in trade talks, but including the 21-year-old right-hander might be necessary to land the big-time arm that the team wants.
Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox
Both Chicago clubs went hard after Masahiro Tanaka and remain in the market for another starting pitcher, according to Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com, but the crosstown rivals aren't likely to be competing against each other for the same arms.
The Cubs will be looking at the free-agent arms still available, according to Levine, which makes sense given current ace Jeff Samardzija's comments earlier this month to The Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer.
Samardzija expressed his frustration with playing on a club that seems to be stuck in a neverending rebuilding process, noting that if the Cubs were able to sign Tanaka, he'd be more inclined to sign an extension to stay in Chicago.
Maybe adding a Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana would be bold enough to convince him to stick around. Maybe not. While trade winds around Samardzija have stopped swirling for now, it wouldn't be shocking to see the Cubs deal him for younger, controllable arms between now and Opening Day.
"It was a substantial economic offer [to Tanaka] and if a similar situation presents itself … we will be able to dip into those resources again. I don’t see similar opportunities on the free agent market at this time."
Hahn and the White Sox have had an outstanding winter, and with the club at least another year away from becoming contenders once again, they are content to sit and wait for the right opportunity to present itself.