The Week Ahead: Tanaka drama nears conclusion
Free-agent market set to pick up once Japanese righty makes decision
Finally, it's Tanaka time.
It might not happen Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, but sometime before this Friday is over, Major League Baseball and its observers worldwide will at last be aware of the landing spot for Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, who is expected to sign for well over $100 million.
The Week Ahead will likely start and finish with the continued speculation and ultimate reality of Tanaka's decision, and once it happens, the Hot Stove dominoes will start to fall just in time for the two-week mark for pitchers and catchers to report to their warm spring homes in Arizona and Florida.
The latest is that the Japanese newspaper Nikkan Sports reported that the Yankees, Dodgers, D-backs, White Sox and Cubs have submitted formal offers for Tanaka, 25, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball in 2013 and who will likely make his decision before or not long after the Friday cutoff date.
Not many teams have been talking about the specifics regarding their negotiations with Tanaka, and the pitcher and his agent, Casey Close, have kept quiet, too. Things figure to get a whole lot louder Friday.
One reason is that Tanaka's decision affects the rest of the Hot Stove set.
As soon as the details are worked out for Tanaka's soon-to-be mega-contract, the other free-agent headliners waiting in the wings -- and the teams that need pitching but missed out on the Japanese ace -- should come to quick agreements with Spring Training getting closer by the day.
The names that jump out at people are right-handers Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, and all figure to do quite well in the finances department. But there are still other pitchers out there for the taking, such as Bronson Arroyo, Chris Capuano, Barry Zito, Scott Baker, Jason Hammel, Tommy Hanson, Bruce Chen, Jake Westbrook and Paul Maholm.
And while there will be plenty of speculation on what could happen this week, we know a few things will happen. One event on the docket for The Week Ahead is the 25th annual Going to Bat for B.A.T. (Baseball Assistance Team) Dinner, set for Tuesday, and the other is the Baseball Writers' Association of America Dinner in New York on Saturday.
Meanwhile, we'll probably spend some of the week wondering, just like in many of the last eight or nine or 10 weeks, if certain things will unfold in front offices in the days ahead.
Like, specifically, will David Price get traded?
The former American League Cy Young Award winner is still in his 20s and has two more seasons remaining until free agency. We might soon find out if all that is working against the Rays as far as potential return in a potential blockbuster for a package of prospects.
We might also find out where the rest of the free agents are going, since the wheeling and dealing we usually see this time of the year has seemingly been on hold while the Tanaka situation unfolds.
Position players such as shortstop Stephen Drew, Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales are still around on the free-agent board, along with veteran role-player-types Placido Polanco, Michael Young, Juan Pierre and Reed Johnson.
Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney, Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Rafael Betancourt and Kevin Gregg are closers looking for teams, although reports had Balfour as a possible target for Washington, which already has a closer in Rafael Soriano.
Righty relievers Luis Ayala, Kyle Farnsworth, Frank Francisco, Matt Guerrier, Carlos Marmol, Francisco Rodriguez and Brett Myers and lefties Eric O'Flaherty, Michael Gonzalez, Oliver Perez and Rich Hill are available as well, but they're all in the same boat as everyone else.
They're waiting on Tanaka, too, and they're probably happy that this latest saga is close to its conclusion.