- Jim Bowden, ESPN Insider
As you have probably heard by now, Masahiro Tanaka has agreed to a seven-year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees. As Buster Olney noted Wednesday morning, this won’t necessarily set off the free-agent dominoes, but the deal does have serious implications for the suitors that missed out on Tanaka -- the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels -- as well as the remaining free-agent pitchers.
Here’s how I see things playing out from here.
1. Angels and D-backs will battle for Garza
Among the big-name, free-agent pitchers out there, Matt Garza is the most appealing because, unlike with Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, the team that signs Garza will not have to forfeit a draft pick. As a result, I expect a little bit of a bidding war for Garza to emerge between the Angels and Diamondbacks.
Both teams are in need of a good starter, and Garza could be a solid No. 2 for either club. One key difference between the two teams is that Arizona views Santana as a possible alternative and would consider giving up a draft pick to sign him, while the Angels are not interested in a reunion with Santana.
2. Santana to Arizona or Toronto
As noted, the D-backs could pursue Santana if they lose out on Garza, but the other possible destination for him is Toronto. The Jays have two picks in the top 11 in next year’s draft, and that 11th pick is protected because it is a compensation pick for failing to sign Phil Bickford, the No. 10 pick in the 2013 draft. Normally, only the top 10 picks are protected, but this is an exception.
The Blue Jays would have to sacrifice their second-round pick to sign Santana while keeping two of the top 11 selections. In other words, they have a lot of incentive to make this move, and it’s likely they are waiting for Santana’s price to drop, a la Kyle Lohse last year.
3. Ubaldo will stay put
Like Santana, Jimenez has draft-pick compensation attached to him, but he seems to have far fewer suitors. I get the sense that Toronto and Arizona like Santana more than Jimenez, which means that Jimenez’s best offer will likely come from the Indians. He had a lot of success in Cleveland working with pitching coach Mickey Callaway, so this could be the best move for him from a performance standpoint, but the ultimate dollars will pale in comparison to what Tanaka got.
4. Dodgers will sign Arroyo
As Buster noted in his piece, the Dodgers don’t see Garza, Santana or Jimenez as a viable alternative to Tanaka. However, they would like to add some pitching depth due to the health woes facing Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley. While Bronson Arroyo would prefer to pitch on the East Coast, he also wants to win a World Series. The Dodgers will give him that opportunity.
Arroyo is extremely reliable, having averaged more than 200 innings per season since 2005. His biggest problem is giving up homers, but that weakness would be mitigated in spacious Dodger Stadium. A two-year deal with L.A. makes all kinds of sense for player and team.
5. Cubs will remain patient
Team president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer know the Cubs are a year or two away from contending. The only reason they were in on Tanaka is because he is just 25 years old, and they knew he would still be an impact player when prospects such as Javier Baez and Kris Bryant arrive on the North Side.
The Cubs’ system lacks high-end pitching prospects, so losing out on Tanaka is a big blow. That said, management has been incredibly patient over the past couple of years, and I believe that will continue to be their M.O. That is not what Cubs fans want to hear, but that patience will pay off in a couple of years.