There were multiple teams linked to the right-hander, but in the end, it’s no surprise he ultimately chose one of the big guns.
BREAKING: Tanaka to #Yankees, seven years, $155M, opt-out after fourth year.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 22, 2014
That little project by the New York Yankees to get their payroll under the $189 million threshold to avoid big luxury tax penalties? Out the window. Even after the savings they’ll benefit from with the Alex Rodriguez suspension, this deal once again propels them into a different category among their peers when it comes to player budgets. It’s interesting that they weren’t willing to break it for someone they knew extremely well in Robinson Cano, but did so for a relative unknown entity in Tanaka. Sure, there are scouting reports and they certainly did their homework on the medicals. But, pitchers being what they are — always a high risk with larger workloads — this is a massive commitment for even a guy entering his age 25 season.
So, the Seattle Mariners went from pundit-declared favorites a few weeks ago to a team that may not have been heavily involved in the derby at all. And, really, at that price tag, can you blame them?
Not only is the seven years at that lofty price tag higher than I’d have liked to see the team go, that opt out clause is something I despise. If I’m the M’s and that comes up in the conversation as a prerequisite, I politely leave the bargaining table. I don’t like it for position players, and I hate it for pitchers.
One thing that some may bring up is that the M’s paid for more for Felix Hernandez — an older, more worked pitcher — over the same period. Which is true, but Felix was already a franchise icon at the time of his signing and was a player the club could not let test the open market. As much as we want the team to pay for what a player will do as opposed to what they’ve done, there’s still a very fair case to be made that Felix had much more value to the Mariners moving forward than any other team.
Okay, so now what?
The club’s rotation now has two locks — Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma — and several question marks. Rookies James Paxton and Taijuan Walker impressed in their late-season showcases in 2013, but neither should be expected to step in and be major contributors right away next season. Paxton is the older of the two, the one who probably needs to make the step sooner than later. Walker is still young, and pushing him into a pressure role now may not be the best idea if there are any concerns about his polish and readiness. After those four? The waters get even murkier with an inconsistent Erasmo Ramirez and change.
The team will likely head back into the free-agent and trade markets to look for another starter or two. The David Price links may begin to crop up again now that the Tanaka situation is settled, or the club could turn to the next big names freely available like Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.
The problem now, though? A whole lot of teams that need pitching just missed out on Tanaka and are going to have a hard time convincing any of this trio that they aren’t worth the cash each of their agents have been demanding. The market for these three gentleman just got more interesting and I doubt one of those dominoes falls first without setting up the other two equally well.
The Mariners might not have got their guy. Or, maybe they didn’t get a guy who wasn’t their guy. We don’t really know what they’re thinking, because they don’t tell us. We’re left to guess, but the guess work isn’t that difficult. The M’s need an arm — maybe two arms — and there are arms to be had. They have some money to spend. Whether it’s one of Garza, Jimenez, Santana, Price or another name none of us have thought of, the club is going to have to spend to get one.
It might be cash. Might be prospects. But they’re going to have to spend something soon.