It is no secret that the New York Yankees are one of the several teams interested in Japanese ace Masuhiro Tanaka. Normally, Tanaka would have been posted already but an agreement on a change to posting process has delayed Tanaka being posted. Now, according to several reports, discussions between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball have hit a snag, a snag that could prevent Tanaka from being posted at all this offseason.
The proposed changes to the posting system would give the player some say in what team he signs with. The proposed changes would have the top two or three bidders getting a chance to negotiate with the player. This apparently has been a major sticking point with NPB.
The way the posting process has worked has had the highest bidder winning negotiating rights to the player and that team would have a 30-day window to sign that player. If no contract is reached the posting fee is returned to the MLB bidding team.
If no agreement is reached between MLB and NPB that means the offseason plans of the New York Yankees changes dramatically. The Yankees were planning on posting a huge bid according to reports since the posting fee doesn’t count towards the luxury tax. Had the Yankees won they would have been able to sign Tanaka to a reasonable deal, at least compared to what free agent pitchers currently on the market would command.
As it stands right now only C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova are guaranteed rotation spots next season. The Yankees do have options in David Phelps, Adam Warren, Michael Pineda, Brett Marshall and Vidal Nuno and one of those players would probably be named the Yankees’ fifth starter. GM Brian Cashman has said he would like to add about 400 innings in free agency. Tanaka was the top target of the offseason and now there is a chance he is never even made available.
If the Yankees wait too long they could miss out on free agent pitchers like Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ricky Nolasco. Furthermore, those same free agent pitchers might be able to demand a little more money since Tanaka, who was considered by many the top free agent pitcher on the market, won’t be there.
This offseason has not exactly been kind to the Yankees so far. Robinson Cano is demanding a lot of money and the Yankees have gone public stating they might be outbid for Cano’s services. Hiroki Kuroda hasn’t given any indication as to what he wants to do next season and very well could return to Japan to finish out his career. Then there is the Alex Rodriguez debacle, I mean arbitration hearing, which has handcuffed the Yankees at the moment because they don’t know how much money they will have to spend this offseason. If Rodriguez is suspended for the whole season the Yankees could save $31 million against the luxury tax. That is a huge swing either way and could mean the difference between signing two more free agents to fill the many holes on the roster.
Cashman has to be perplexed at the moment. If he was truly counting on Tanaka filling one of his open rotation spots then he will have to scramble to find another pitcher or two to fill the open spots. Right now, Cashman is a prisoner to things that are outside of his control. Of course, it is hard to pity Cashman since he is partially responsible for the Yankees being in this position but for Yankees’ fans this could be a winter of heartbreak.