Free Agent Forecast: Remaining Starters
Arguably the one position the Yankees are working hardest to pursue is starting pitching. Here are some of the best names out there:
1) Matt Garza
At just 30-years-old, Matt Garza has already pitched for four teams and is busy looking for a fifth. The California native is consistently solid, and sports a career ERA of 3.84. When healthy, he's good for 10-15 wins and can strikeout his fair share of hitters. Although he's not an ace by any means, he's a solid, middle-of-the-rotation guy and he'll have no trouble finding work this offseason for that reason. His best season came in 2011 on a bad Chicago Cubs team. He won only 10 games, but had a 3.32 ERA and had 197 strikeouts in 198 innings pitched.
The Yankees' interest in Garza is almost 100% predicated on whether or not they can bring Tanaka over from Japan. He is their number one pitching option and they know that. For that reason, it's possible that Garza is swooped up by a team desperate for good starting pitching (like the Orioles or Mets) before the Yankees have a chance to call on him as a backup plan. If they DO strikeout on Tanaka, though, and Garza is still on the market, he would make a lot of sense in the Bronx. He's proven he can win in the AL East with the Rays, and he would provide a sure thing in the rotation…something the Yankees badly need.
2) Masahiro Tanaka
It's safe to say that there is only one pitcher on the market that went 24-0 last season…and that's Masahiro Tanaka. He's only 25 years old and has 99 career wins in Japan with an ERA of only 2.30. He's been said to be the best pitcher available in Japan, and many have compared him to the Rangers' Yu Darvish. Both have good fastballs and devastating splitters.
The only roadblock in negotiations between Tanaka and the Yankees is the posting process, which is currently being negotiated on by Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball. It's been reported that the agreement between the two sides may not occur until the middle of December, but once that is done, the bidding will begin for the services of the Japanese right-hander.
The Yankees interest is, in a word, high. With CC Sabathia's ineffectiveness in 2013 and Andy Pettitte's retirement, there are plenty of holes to fill in the Yankee rotation. While it's very possible that the Yankees have a bad taste in their mouth after signing Kei Igawa a few years back, Tanaka is known as much more of a sure thing. While scouts have said he's not quite at Darvish's level, they rank him above Kuroda…who has been fantastic for the Yankees in the last two seasons and has excelled in the hard-hitting AL East. Once this posting system is settled, the Yankees and Dodgers expect to be the most aggressive teams in the market for Tanaka.
3) Ervin Santana
The 30-year old Dominican right-hander has been inconsistent throughout his career. Luckily for him, though, 2013 was one of the best seasons of his career. He threw 211 innings and posted a 3.24 ERA on the Royals, while allowing thirteen less home runs than he did in 2012 (when he lead the league with 39). He has a 4.19 career ERA and strikes out about seven per nine innings, so he's a solid option. There are two problems with Santana, though. First, any team that signs him will lose a pick, which sometimes leaves that pitcher unsigned for months (like Kyle Lohse a year ago). Second, with guys like Jason Vargas getting four-year, $32 million deals…Santana is going to be asking for a lot.
I don't think the Yankees would sign Santana, and mostly because of his inconsistency and tendency to give up the long ball. The Yanks won't be looking to pay such a high price for that type of result, especially when they dealt with those same issues with Phil Hughes.
4) Ubaldo Jimenez:
At 29-years old, the Dominican right-hander is still young and he's coming off of a very good season. He went 13-9 on the Indians with a 3.30 ERA and 194 K's. He helped carry the team when Justin Masterson when down and emerged as a veteran leader in the rotation. It's a good year for him to be looking for a pay day…mostly because he has proven he can pitch in both the NL and AL and is healthy enough to throw 180 innings.
Jimenez had a terrible year in 2012, and the Yankees will be wary of that. He was much better in 2013, but was that purely because it was a contract year? Regardless, the Yankees' interest in Jimenez is, like all starters on the market, predicated on Tanaka's availability. If the Yanks still haven't signed a pitcher in three weeks, and Tanaka remains a mystery, it's very possible they'd go after Jimenez as their third starter.
5) Bronson Arroyo
Simply put, Arroyo is the safest pitcher on the market. He's a lock to throw about 200 innings and limit his ERA to hover under 4.00. However, he's been in the lighter-hitting National League since 2005, and you'll rarely see Arroyo touch 90 MPH with his fastball. Still, Arroyo would make a solid fourth or fifth starter in the American League and his consistent numbers should negate any worry about his velocity. Plus, Arroyo is known as one of Major League Baseball's best guys in the clubhouse, which could make him appealing as a veteran addition to a young rotation.
Arroyo gives up a ton of home runs. He gave up a league-leading 46 in 2011 and 32 in 2013. Those statistics alone, along with his low velocity, will probably be enough for the Yankees to steer away. Arroyo belongs in a big ballpark and on a team where his presence in the rotation can benefit those around him.