Friday, December 20, 2013

Some Cheaper Tanaka Alternatives

(Meh... Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Yesterday the news broke that the Rakuten Golden Eagles were not going to post Masahiro Tanaka this offseason.  Then some reports came out that they still hadn't decided if they were going to post him this offseason.  Then there was a report that they still would post him this offseason.  So as of right now they're not planning on posting him and they're going to offer him a record NPB contract to stay, but they might post him because they haven't decided if they want to post him even though they don't have to post him and eventually they will post him but maybe not.

As far as the Yankees are concerned, they almost have no choice but to move on assuming that Tanaka isn't going to be posted.  The process has already dragged out longer than they anticipated or wanted it to and their rotation isn't getting any better while they wait around for Rakuten to make up its mind.  The Yanks are reportedly not interested in the next tier of MLB free agent starters like Jimenez, Garza, and Santana, but I still can't see them not bringing in another pitcher and instead filling the back end of the rotation out with their internal cadre of young arms.  If they want a short-term placeholder for the rotation until next offseason, when they can hopefully try for Tanaka again, here are the most likely candidates for an offer.

Bronson Arroyo

His name has been thrown around a ton in connection with the Yankees this offseason and apparently he has a friendly relationship with the new strength and conditioning coach, so that's something.  I've seen fans and bloggers alike mention him as a good fit on a low-dollar, 1-year deal and I can see why they're saying that based on his reputation as an innings eater.  I'm not big on him personally.  He doesn't strike anybody out anymore (15.1% K rate in 2013), he's not enough of a consistent GB pitcher to get away with the lack of swing-and-miss stuff, and his HR rate has been high since 2008.  I could see him being a disaster pitching in Yankee Stadium, but he's the type of player they would usually go for in this situation.

Jason Hammel

He had a few decent years in Colorado and a good year for the Orioles in 2012, but he crashed back down to earth hard in 2013 (4.97/4.93/4.56 in 139.1 IP).  Hammel's biggest problem lately has been staying healthy.  The guy always seems to have something keeping him on the DL or limiting his effectiveness when he is on the mound.  He also saw his K rate take a major dip in 2013 after an unsustainably high 22.9% in 2012 and he walks more batters than Arroyo.  He could be worth taking a flier on if he's healthy, but that's been a big "if" and the Yankees already have enough to worry about health-wise in their rotation.

Paul Maholm

He's another name that has been attached to the Yankees a time or 2 already this offseason, and he made an appearance in our Project 189 exercise, so there's clearly a fit.  Maholm brings something different to the table as a lefty and he's been remarkably consistent for the bulk of his career.  He's made at least 26 starts every year since 2006, and he's posted a FIP between 3.78 and 4.24 every year since 2008.  He had consistently been a 2-WAR pitcher since '08 up until this past season when he got hit by the HR bug, but he's got a 52.1% career GB rate and he's only 31.  Cash could do a lot worse than Maholm for $5-6 million.

Johan Santana

He's another guy I want no part of, but the team seems interested and there's really nothing to lose on him.  Because of the multiple shoulder surgeries, Santana is going to be hard pressed to find a team willing to give him a guaranteed Major League deal, or at least one that's worth any real money.  If he's willing to take $1 or 2 million with some incentives then maybe it's worth the risk.  He was striking out almost a batter per inning when he last pitched in 2012 and he had shown the ability to be effective with diminished stuff in years prior with the Mets.  Just keep somebody with their hand near the kill button in the production truck when he takes the mound.  Don't need little kids seeing a guy's left arm detach from his body and go flying across the diamond.

Suk-Min Yoon

Remember this guy?  He hasn't gotten any play this offseason and the Yankees were one of the teams that were supposed to be the most interested in him.  He's coming from a different league than Tanaka, but as an international free agent I have to think Tanaka not being posted would hurt his chances of reaching his contract asking price.  That price already wasn't very high by typical MLB standards, so why not take the chance on landing the next Hyun-Jin Ryu if he's still out there?

That's really all that stands out to me when I look at what's left out there.  The pickings are prettay, prettay, prettay slim, and maybe that's what is driving this strategy of filling the open rotation spots from within rather than overpaying for a lesser FA than Tanaka.  If I were calling the shots, I'd talk to Garza and see if I could get him on a cheaper 3-year deal before going down any of these routes.  With the Yanks not wanting to commit to multiple years for guys like him, expect them to shop in this section if they don't stand pat with what they've got.

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