Wednesday morning came with the long-awaited announcement of where Japanese pitching sensation, Masahiro Tanaka, would be playing in MLB. After months of speculation and waiting, the New York Yankees reportedly nabbed the biggest free agent on the market with a seven-year, $155 million contract. Although the Los Angeles Dodgers will certainly be disappointed after being in the running to get Tanaka, they will be just fine without him.
Adding Tanaka to the already-loaded rotation would have been nice for Dodgers fans, but the argument can be made that the Boys in Blue have the best rotation in the majors even without Tanaka. Although Tanaka could have likely come in as the ace in many pitching staffs, Clayton Kershaw will hold that honor for quite a while after the Dodgers inked him to his own seven-year deal. The two-time Cy Young Award winner had nothing to worry about in regards to being replaced at the top of the rotation.
After Kershaw, Tanaka’s spot as the number two arm was not even remotely guaranteed as Zack Greinke currently owns that position with authority. Let us not forget that Greinke went 15-4 in 2013 with a 2.63 ERA and 148 strikeouts. It is realistic to think the Dodgers could have used Tanaka as the third pitcher and even Hyun-Jin Ryu might have something to say about that. Ryu’s rookie season was solid and if he keeps up what he was able to accomplish, he will be a solid number two guy in any other rotation.
With Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, and recently signed Dan Haren filling out the first four of the Dodgers’ rotation, Tanaka would have been a nice way to make it a complete five-man rotation. Nevertheless, the Dodgers still have options that do not even require them to go after a free agent or trade. The in-house alternatives are abundant as this Spring will prove vital for the Dodgers to figure out who will be their end-of-the-rotation starter.
The most promising options lie in prospects like Chris Reed, Ross Stripling and Zach Lee. The team could even get lucky and have Josh Beckett and/or Chad Billingsly back from injury in time for the season. Either way, Tanaka’s open spot leaves room for the Dodgers to try out some young arms or to give their returning veterans a chance to earn back their spot.
Although missing out on Tanaka is unfortunate, the Dodgers will be just fine without him. Look for the squad to come out of Spring Training strong and with all of the momentum they gained in the second half of last season.