The focus in the free-agent market has been about where Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka will land.
Sure, it’s risk in signing an international player to a lucrative deal, but if it were so risky, why did it seem that nearly half the league wants this guy?
But in the end, only the Yankees signed Tanaka, and that means the other teams must look at other options.
The other options are actually quite solid pitchers, and the only reason why they haven’t landed new homes yet is due to the Tanaka sweepstakes.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana are prototypical middle-of-the-rotation starters who could go down as underrated signings this offseason.
Earlier reports this offseason indicated that Jimenez was holding out for a multi-year deal worth roughly $14 million per season. However, as the offseason continues, that’s looking more and more unlikely.
Jimenez has had control issues in the past, and with his age approaching 30, a team may not be willing to go three or four years with him. Maybe he would be better off accepting a one-year deal for the $14 million value and proving his worth.
He’d feel like he is being paid market value, but the team signing him would not have to commit long-term until he can show his control problems are behind him. He could be the first chip to fall once Tanaka signs.
Garza meanwhile is the most intriguing of the bunch, since he would not require the signing team to give up a draft pick. Garza was acquired by the Texas Rangers during the season, and the team did not extend him a qualifying offer.
He’s been a .500 pitcher in his career, but he did find some success with a pretty poor Chicago Cubs’ team the past two years. Again, in the middle of a rotation, he could be a steal.
The Yankees and maybe the Angels could be two likely destinations, especially if the Yankees fail to sign Tanaka, even though they seem to be one of the frontrunners at this point.
As for Santana, he put up decent numbers with the Kansas City Royals last season. Unfortunately for him, his numbers do not support his desire for a $100 million contract.
His control and home run ratio both improved last season as he was able to mix in all four of his pitches. His sinker yielded plenty of ground balls, which is a good sign since he gave up a league-leading 39 home runs in 2012.
Of the three, Santana has the most wins, posting five seasons of double-digit wins. But he also has the highest ERA (4.19, compared to 3.84 for Garza and 3.92 for Jimenez).
Despite their flaws, these three pitchers can be major contributors to a starting staff in 2014. Given the market, maybe a two-year deal -- rather than a four- or five-year deal that these pitchers were likely seeking at the beginning of the season -- could get it done.
They may have yet to receive the interest they thought they would, but now that Tanaka has signed his name on a professional contract, their phones will undoubtedly be ringing off the hook.
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