Friday, January 17, 2014
The Masahiro Tanaka Waiting Game
By Ian Hunter
In many ways, this particular offseason has been one giant waiting game for the Toronto Blue Jays. People have been waiting for them to do something ... anything to improve the club.
Aside from signing Dioner Navarro and non-tendering J.P. Arencibia, the Blue Jays have remained relatively quiet this winter. Under ordinary circumstances it wouldn't be all that concerning, but for a team like the Blue Jays in dire need of pitching ... it is.
But are the Toronto Blue Jays truly quiet, or are they merely a sleeping giant?
For all we know, Alex Anthopoulos has been feverishly working the phones attempting to land one or even two starting pitchers. Indications point towards a few deals that fell apart, but ultimately the Blue Jays pitching staff is mostly unchanged.
The big linchpin in all of this is Masahiro Tanaka; he's the reason why big name free agents like Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and even Matt Garza haven't signed contracts yet; because they're waiting for the Tanaka shoe to drop.
Not only are the Toronto Blue Jays waiting, but seemingly every other team in Major League Baseball is as well. It's all hinging on what happens with Masahiro Tanaka before next Friday's deadline at 5:00pm.
For a team that's been as quiet as the Blue Jays have this offseason, I found it somewhat surprising that they've had multiple discussions with Masahiro Tanaka. All signs point towards the contrary; AA standing pat this offseason and actually tempering expectations for 2014.
Considering how crazy things got around Yu Darvish in Toronto a few years back, one can understand why Anthopoulos would want to downplay any sort of interest in Masahiro Tanaka.
Back then, most deemed the Blue Jays as the favourites to land Yu Darvish. And when Toronto didn't land him, all hell broke loose. This time around is a stark contrast as there's been very confirmation whatsoever from upper management about interest in Masahiro Tanaka.
But every indication is that Toronto won't be in on Tanaka, and they might not even make a play for Santana, Jimenez or Garza either.
The whole situation is a little complicated because there is still a slight chance that even if the Blue Jays are out on Masahiro Tanaka, they could be in on Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.
Until those guys are officially off the board, there's always a possibility (albeit a small one) that either could come to Toronto, which is drawing out this offseason waiting game even further.
Obviously, Masahiro Tanaka is the most coveted player still out there on the market, which makes him the first domino to fall. Once he goes, the others won't be too far behind. But if the Blue Jays are waiting on Tanaka, they could be waiting too long.
If anything, I think missing out on Tanaka would invariably drive up the asking price for Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez. The rumoured annual $14 million asking price on Ubaldo seems a little low, considering $14.5 million was the going rate for a qualifying offer.
The other problem I foresee is the Blue Jays missing out on Santana and Jimenez simply because they'd get outbid by whoever becomes the bridesmaid in the Tanaka sweepstakes. That team could very well just use the money they earmarked for Tanaka, and throw it at Santana or Jimenez instead.
You have to believe their prospective agents will exploit that as well; so if the Yankees miss out on Tanaka, don't think Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez' agents won't be on the horn with Brian Cashman shortly thereafter.
Also, don't forget there are other teams probably just waiting to put their starters back on the trade block. It's no coincidence the Reds reportedly pulled Homer Bailey back off the market; they'd be wise to listen to offers on Bailey after the Tanaka situation is resolved.
The same goes for the Jeff Samardzija and the Chicago Cubs as well; coincidentally, they haven't come to an agreement on a contract extension yet, and Samardzija is just another starter who could be shopped once the dust settles from the Tanaka sweepstakes.
There is of course also a remote possibility that waiting out the market on Masahiro Tanaka could eventually drive down the price of the starting pitcher that Anthopoulos are seeking. But I seriously doubt that tactic will prove beneficial for the Blue Jays.
If that is in fact Alex Anthopoulos' plan, then he could be stuck with someone like Bronson Arroyo, or compromising and signing a guy with reportedly red-flagged medicals, Matt Garza.
Because getting involved with someone who possesses a spotty injury history is the last thing the Blue Jays need to do this offseason.
Image courtesy of Bleacher Report