According to Mark Feinsand, the Tanaka posting begins this morning. With that, the 30-day negotiation window is open. It will close on January 24 (though I have to assume most teams — if not all teams — will know well before that date whether they’re still in the hunt).
Not to become overly dramatic about what this means for the Yankees, but it really could define their offseason.
So far, the Yankees have thrown a ton of money at big-name free agents. They’ve signed Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran to be new cornerstones of their lineup, and they’ve found some relatively high-profile role players in Kelly Johnson, Brendan Ryan, Brian Roberts and Matt Thronton. The Yankees have been aggressive — even in an offseason when they’ve lost Robinson Cano — but they’ve also acknowledged that there’s still work to be done. A lot of that work can be completed with this one player.
What Tanaka represents is a chance to do three things:
1. Address a weak and uncertain rotation.
2. Add some youth to an aging roster.
3. Show absolute financial might.
And there’s a reason I put the rotation issue at the top of the list.
True, by signing Tanaka, the Yankees would make good on their vow that getting below the luxury tax threshold would not come at the expense of fielding a strong team. That’s important, if only because of the signal it sends to the fan base and the rest of the league. Also, Tanaka presents an opportunity to bring in a high-potential starter who’s still in his mid-20s. That kind of pitcher rarely reaches the free agent market these days, and another one might not hit the market for quite a while.
But the rotation is the real prize here, because it’s the spot on the roster most in need of a boost.
Right now, the back of the Yankees’ rotation is as inexperienced as their bullpen, and the front of the Yankees’ rotation has the same sort of uncertainty as their infield. That’s basically two types of roster concerns wrapped into one. Plus, rotations are difficult to fix on the fly. It’s hard to piece them together mid-season (like a bullpen), and it’s hard to patch them together with piggybacks and spot starters (like an infield platoon). Team’s can’t really fake a rotation, and Tanaka presents a chance to solidify the Yankees’ in both the short-term and the long-term.
There are obvious risks — starting with the fact Tanaka has no track record in the U.S. — but given the other options, and given the current needs, Tanaka could be a make-or-break opportunity. The Yankees have spent lavishly this winter. But they might have to spend a little more.
Associated Press photo