The Masahiro Tanaka contest is over with the Yankees emerging victorious. New York agreed to a seven-year deal worth $155 million that will see Tanaka become the fifth-highest paid pitcher in baseball history.
Of course, the Yankees weren't the only team hoping to sign Tanaka. Over a third of major league teams had shown at least a cursory interest in signing him, but a handful stood above the rest and went toe-to-toe with the Yankees in bidding for the Japanese ace. Here is a look at each of those teams and what they might do now that they lost out on Tanaka.
Yanks land Tanaka
Yanks land Tanaka
The Dodgers never really needed another starter. They probably just had the money and saw Tanaka available and decided why not make a run. For now they still have one of the top rotations in baseball led by Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. In the fourth and fifth spots will be two of Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett and Dan Haren.
As with any team's rotation there is room for improvement, but the Dodgers likely won't feel like they must make a new acquisition. However, that doesn't mean they still won't look for someone to more fully round out the rotation. Reportedly Los Angeles might now prefer a short-term veteran starter were they to sign someone else. The club might become an ideal landing spot for Bronson Arroyo, who has been looking for a three-year contract this offseason.
The other starting pitchers that appear to be clear improvements like Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza are all looking for longer deals and thus might not fit in with the preferences of team management. It seems like the only thing that could keep the Dodgers from making the playoffs are injuries, so signing the consistent Arroyo may be their best option if they look for outside arms..
Los Angeles is reportedly listening on possible improvements to the rotation, but for now may not necessarily be actively shopping for an arm.
After losing out on Tanaka, the Cubs appear as though they will not pursue any further upgrades to their starting rotation this offseason. The appeal of Tanaka for the Cubs was always that he was just 25 years old and thus would still be productive when the team is set to compete again in a few years. The Cubs currently have one of the top farm systems in baseball, but it is loaded primarily with positional prospects such as Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Alberto Almora and Jorge Soler. Tanaka would have helped provide a balance between hitting and pitching.
Since taking over in 2011, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have been making an effort to shed themselves of exorbitant salaries while building through their minor league system. It's not that the Cubs don't have money, just that now does not seem to be the time to spend it. When their prospects start hitting the majors, look for Chicago to possibly make a splash.
It's possible the Cubs may even choose to downgrade their rotation without Tanaka. Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija has been the subject of trade rumors all offseason though the Cubs might prefer to sign him to an extension. The righty recently expressed his frustration with the rebuilding effort and appears more willing to sign long-term in Chicago were they to make a move to win now. Without Tanaka, no such move appears to exist barring a trade of the team's prospects, something they almost certainly would not do.
Arizona already has a strong rotation with Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy and Randall Delgado. However, that rotation is lacking a certain amount of upside. It's a group of solid starters, but has no bona fide ace. Top prospect Archie Bradley could become that type of player, but the team traded away another high-potential starter in Tyler Skaggs to acquire slugger Mark Trumbo.
Arizona has been one of the more oft-mentioned names in the running for Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, though it has not appeared that they have been close to a deal with either. The team has made runs at Tanaka, Shin-Soo Choo and Jeff Samardzija this winter but has so far come up short on all three accounts. Samardzija is still an option, of course, and could be the kind of high-upside arm for which they are looking.
The Diamondbacks could also be a contender to sign Matt Garza. The appeal of Garza is added to by the fact he would not cost a first round pick to sign. The Diamondbacks have a potent and young lineup and a solid rotation. Adding a top-of-the-line arm might make them contenders for a wild card spot in the National League assuming they can't top the Dodgers in-division.
The White Sox always seemed a bit of a long-shot to bring in Tanaka considering they appear to be several years out of playoff contention with a weak farm system and so-so current roster. They have the money and did make one splash on the free agent market with Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, but Tanaka reportedly wanted to play for a team that could win now.
Now it's hard to guess as to what Chicago might do. Considering they just brought in Abreu, blowing up the team and starting over may not be the preferred option. They have what could be a solid lineup and a nice rotation led by Chris Sale, but finished with 99 losses in 2013 and won't see a jump to playoff contention in 2014 without a series of big moves. Even with Tanaka that would have been a chore. They could make an effort to sign another free agent pitcher, but would it be worth it?
The Astros somewhat surprisingly were in the Tanaka bidding right until the very end. Baseball's worst team in 2013, the Astros were likely not a preferred destination for Tanaka as, similarly to the White Sox, the team is a ways from contention.
Houston's current starting staff consists of Scott Feldman, who was signed to a three-year deal earlier in the offseason to be an anchor of the rotation, then a hodgepodge of Brett Oberholtzer, Jarred Cosart, Brad Peacock, Dallas Keuchel, Lucas Harrell, Paul Clemens and Collin McHugh. A couple of those players have the potential to be special, but for the most part it is a rotation that seems devoid of top talent.
Unlike the White Sox, however, the Astros have a top farm system that is poised to become even better with the number one overall pick in the 2014 draft. For now, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Mark Appel, Jonathan Singleton, et. al. make up what could be an outstanding team a few years down the line. The Astros will probably refrain from any big moves for the remainder of the offseason with no truly special talent remaining on the market.