MLB Remaining Starting Pitcher Free Agents – Gauging Their Markets
Tanaka is essentially functioning as a dam with the other free agent pitchers waiting for him to sign before their market truly presents itself. With his gaudy numbers and stifling hype, Tanaka is likely to end up with a contract worth between $120 and $140 million. Whether he’s going to make the transition smoothly as Yu Darvish did, become a Daisuke Matsuzaka-type disappointment, a Kei Igawa-disaster or somewhere in between is irrelevant to the amount of money he’s going to get. It’s a feeding frenzy.
He’s a talent, but not a guarantee transitionally or mechanically. To be blunt, those demanding Tanaka as a “must have” don’t know what they’re talking about. On the same token, those saying to stay away from him completely based on armchair analysis and regurgitated buzzwords aren’t any better.
Tanaka’s best options to get the most money are the Yankees or Cubs. His best options to be successful and pitch comfortably in a location where the pressure will be muted are with the Mariners and Astros. Once he signs, the avalanche will begin and the other pitchers will fall one-by-one. They’ll fall fast.
Santana was asking for $100 million. Even with the dearth of pitching available and relatively unappealing options after Tanaka, it’s hard to see a team—no matter how desperate—giving him the money he seeks. That said, Santana in the right situation would be successful for at least three years out of a five year contract. That’s been his career trajectory. He’s provided 200+ innings in five of his nine big league seasons. If he’s in a big home ballpark with a good outfield defense and isn’t expected to be an ace, he’ll be good. If the Mariners don’t get Tanaka, Santana is a fit. He’d work well with the Dodgers as well. That said, I get the sense he’ll end up with the Blue Jays.
Which Jimenez would the new team be getting? The one with the bloated ERA and questionable attitude in 2011 and 2012? The excellent pitcher from 2009, 2010 and 2013? Jimenez also wants a lot of money, but he keeps the ball in the park making him a more agreeable on-field option for the Yankees. Off the field, whether or not he’d handle New York is the question.
Pitchers like Jimenez and Santana will have to settle for around $80 million rather than the $100 million they had their hearts set on when the free agency process began. Jimenez is the Yankees desperation signing if they don’t get Tanaka. Then they’ll be looking to unload him 2 1/2 years into the lucrative deal and be willing to eat money to get him out of town. If the Yankees do get Tanaka, look for Jimenez signing with the Mariners giving manager Lloyd McClendon another quirky personality to rein in.