Well, that is finally over. We had to deal with almost a month of nothing going on except rumors about whether or not the Rakuten Golden Eagles would let Masahiro Tanaka be posted, then it nearly a month of "where will he sign?" but the biggest melodrama of the offseason ended yesterday, and like a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, this one ended up playing out exactly as we thought it would.
The role of the charming but hapless Englishman who overcomes his hubris was replaced by the free-spending, pitching-hungry New York Yankees and they weren't chasing some eccentric Zooey Deschanel-type they always thought of as friend, but a Japanese righty with a killer splitter and the ability to touch 96 mph with his fastball. Despite those minor difference, this free agent Rom-Com turned out to be every bit as predictable as the average Hugh Grant vehicle in the end. The handsome, wealthy organization with the winning tradition got the
girl arm. Snore.
Now that it is finally over, we can move on to some truly exciting free-agent fare. I can see Matt Garza in a nice Leone-inspired Western or Ervin Santana in a Hitchcockian thriller.
The Big Three
1. Obviously, the number one story has to be Tanaka signing with the Yankees. He completes them. They had him at seven years, $155 million with an opt out in the fourth year. Now, the only question that remains is will he be worth it? Judging from the reaction to a poll over at Pinstriped Alley, Yankees fans think the answer is yes. At Baseball Nation, Rob Neyer isn't so sure he will be that much of a difference-maker though. I don't see him changing things as much as the more optimistic Yankees fans might think he will, but the fact that he is 25 years old is really significant for a team whose average player is pretty close in age to the target demographic for all those Cialis ads they run during games. The Yankees needed pitching and they needed to get younger and only Tanaka could really fill both needs. He might not be worth all of the $155 million the Yankees are shelling out, but he will probably be pretty darn good and the Yankees don't mind overpaying.
2. Not to be outdone by their arch-rivals, the Red Sox signed Grady Sizemore. Take that Yankees! Sure, it is not on par with landing the top available arm, but the last time I checked, the Red Sox had between eight and 80 possible starters floating around their major league team and farm system and a World Championship that Mike Napoli misplaced somewhere along with his shirt and car keys last Friday night. Outfield depth might be an issue, however, and Sizemore could address that. The Red Sox gave Sizemore an incentive-laden major league deal with a base salary of just $750,000 so they are risking less than they will probably spend on private investigators to find and recover that trophy this offseason. For that modest risk, they get a guy who was one of the best center fielders in the game from 2005-2008 and who is still just 31 years old. Maybe he doesn't have the best medical history of late, but it's $750K. There isn't a team in baseball that would really sweat that small of a risk for his potential upside, is there?
3. The Athletics signed Eric O'Flaherty to 2-year, $7 million contract. The left-handed reliever is the latest piece of the Athletics bullpen rebuild, which has seen them add approximately $18.5 million in payroll to the bullpen. Using Baseball-reference's estimates, that spending accounts for almost 24 percent of their entire projected payroll for 2014. Given how volatile relievers' performances can be, that is a pretty shocking amount of the Oakland budget. I guess when are coming off a 96-win season and you have 22 players still in their pre-arbitration years, you can spend your money that way. Even so, it is pretty surprising.
In Other News
Justin Millar posed the question, "which team is most improved?" and there are no shortage of good answers. At this writing, the Yankees have a lead in the polls, but the Rangers and Athletics have strong numbers as well.
Now that Masahiro Tanaka has signed, the market for pitchers can start to move again. That could mean increased trade talk surrounding Rays ace David Price. Price is getting too expensive for Tampa Bay and the type of haul he could return with two years of team control remaining might end up boggling a few minds, so moving him is a real possibility for Tampa Bay. The Rays are still contenders, however, and even with all the talented young arms on their roster, they would be hard pressed to replace David Price's production on the mound. At DRays Bay, Daniel Russell considers at what an extension for Price might look like. I don't think I'm spoiling much by telling you it looks like a lot of money. Still, it might not be completely impossible for the Rays to make it happen if he is down with a home team discount.
The Next Great Baseball Movie
It's Academy Awards season and I've got movies on my mind. Maybe you've noticed. While the Wooing of Masahiro Tanaka probably isn't going to be the next moody Wong Kar-wai masterpiece, another story from this offseason has all the elements you want in the kind of pseudo-realistic, dark comedy that the Coen Brothers do so well. I'm referring to the tragi-comedy of Major League Baseball's battle against Alex Rodriguez. The New York Times piece by Steve Eder, Serge F. Kovaleski and Michael S. Schmidt details the incredible lengths MLB went to expose the Yankee star and A-Rod's attempts to hide the truth. There are clandestine affairs and private eyes, stolen documents and drug dealers. It's an absurd tale full of moral ambiguity, out-sized egos and petty crimes. The Academy loves that junk.
Presented for your consideration: Biogenesis: The Movie
It's a working title.
Now, here is where I need your help. We need to cast this thing. With the right cast, the financing will fall into place. There is the Alex Rodriguez role, obviously. That is a tough one to fill. We also have Bud Selig and Biogenesis dealer Anthony Bosch. A-Rod's trainer is a meaty supporting role for a good character actor. There is the MLB investigator and his love interest and a few more Miami private eyes. Cameo roles as Ryan Braun and some of the other implicated players could give us some added star power. I'm telling you; you get the right cast in place, this thing will be huge.