This one’s worth sharing. My colleague over at USA Today, Jorge L. Ortiz, came up with a list of the winners and losers in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes. It’s to think of this as strictly a Yankees situation — and certainly, they’re in the middle of it — but the ripples reach several other teams and players, in both good ways and bad. Here’s Jorge’s story:
Now, a number of clubs are left to scour the free-agent landscape for rotation help after the New York Yankees won the bidding war for the Japanese right-hander with a seven-year, $155 million deal. They include both Los Angeles teams and both Chicago teams, as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, and they’re all among the losers in a sweepstakes that had frozen the market for free-agent starters.
Here’s a look at who won and who lost in the auction:
Yankees: Desperately in need of an ace with CC Sabathia in decline, the Evil Empire confirmed it’s back among baseball’s powerhouses. Tanaka’s signing completes a $438 million offseason spending spree that also landed them Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. So much for austerity.
Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana: All three free agent starters had been biding their time while teams tripped over themselves with offers for Tanaka, whose contract is the fifth-largest ever for a pitcher. They won’t cash in at the same level as Tanaka, but clearly there’s still plenty of money to go around, and clubs with pitching needs. Garza has an edge in that he’s not tied to draft-pick compensation by virtue of having been traded during the season before he became a free agent. Jimenez and Santana rejected qualifying offers, so they will cost the teams that sign them a high draft choice.
The rest of the NL West: The Dodgers are scary enough with a rotation featuring Cy Young Award winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, along with impressive Korean lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. Adding Tanaka to that mix would have been almost unfair. The Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres can breathe easier, though their task remains formidable.
Cubs: The Cubs were hoping to make Tanaka the pitching centerpiece of their rebuilding project and hopefully have him serve as an inducement for Jeff Samardzija to commit long-term to the club. They still have a number of high-level prospects on the pipeline, including Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora, but that might not be enough to convince Samardzija without more help for a dreadful rotation.
Dodgers: Unless they pick up another free agent starter, they figure to enter the season with Dan Haren and Josh Beckett as their No. 4 and 5 starters. That’s not such a terrible consolation prize, especially considering Haren closed out last year strong (6-4, 3.52 ERA) after a brutal first half (4-10, 5.61). But Beckett is coming off surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome and remains a question mark.
Diamondbacks: Arizona is flush with young pitching, to the point it could afford to trade lefty Tyler Skaggs in the Mark Trumbo deal. What the Diamondbacks lack is a pitcher used to being the staff ace. Tanaka guided the Rakuten Golden Eagles to the Japanese league championship as part of his 24-0 season and is comfortable in the role.
White Sox: Like the cross-town Cubs, the White Sox needed a marquee free agent to spark enthusiasm for a team that has fallen on hard times. The addition of Cuban slugger Jose Abreu was a step in that direction, but Tanaka’s star is brighter, and he appears closer to making an impact than Abreu. After Chris Sale, there’s not much in the White Sox rotation to get fans enthused.
Angels: Trying to bounce back from four consecutive non-playoff seasons and battling the Dodgers for market supremacy, the Angels made it their No. 1 priority this offseason to improve a pitching staff that ranked 11th in the league with a 4.23 ERA last season. They added Skaggs and fellow lefty Hector Santiago to a rotation that features Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Tanaka would have provided a much bigger boost.
Associated Press photos