The theory went that once Masahiro Tanaka signed, the rest of the free-agent market would loosen up after weeks at a near standstill. Well, the Yankees won the bidding for the Japanese right-hander on Wednesday, and on Thursday — as if on cue — more action followed.
Although several significant free agents remain available — pitchers such as Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, for instance — the chips began to fall in Tanaka’s wake. With the Rays signing closer Grant Balfour and the Brewers drawing close to a deal with starter Matt Garza, Thursday was a signal that the Hot Stove could once again be sizzling.
Here’s a look at news from around the league:
- Garza reportedly had agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal with the Brewers on Thursday, but the club later announced that negotiations were “ongoing.” If the contract goes through, it will qualify as a strong move for Milwaukee, writes MLB.com columnist Mike Bauman.
- Balfour had a deal with the Orioles fall through earlier in the offseason after issues arose with his physical, and that allowed the veteran to wind up back with Tampa Bay, on a two-year deal. Balfour was a setup man for the Rays from 2007-10 but returns as the club’s ninth-inning man after a successful stint in Oakland.
- Tanaka held a press conference with the Japanese media in Tokyo and said the Yankees gave him the “highest evaluation,” and he is “going there to win the World Series.”
- Tanaka’s new general manager, Brian Cashman, said his offseason “heavy lifting” likely is complete, although there still are areas for him to address. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network, the club is considering adding free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, now that it won’t be able to stay under the luxury tax threshhold. Drew could play second base or move back to short if Derek Jeter is injured.
- With Clayton Kershaw’s massive extension with the Dodgers now about a week old, two other All-Star pitchers expressed their desire for long-term contracts that would allow them to stay put. Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer told reporters at the Tigers’ Winter Caravan that he hopes to get something done by this spring, or if not, after the season. Meanwhile, Red Sox lefty Jon Lester stated his desire to remain with the only organization he has known for the rest of his career.
- On the topic of extensions, the Marlins have interest in signing slugger Giancarlo Stanton to one, now that they have avoided arbitration with a one-year contract for 2014.
- This has been a much more patient type of offseason for the Angeles, writes MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez, who also takes a look at five free-agent starters whom the team could target.
- Elsewhere in the AL West, the Mariners also are looking to add a starter, preferably a veteran who could fill the No. 3 slot in their rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.
- Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said he thought his club was going to be able to sign outfielder Grady Sizemore but that Sizemore, “changed his mind at the last minute,” before signing with the Red Sox on Wednesday.
- Thursday also brought some Minor League deals for veteran players, with righties Jon Rauch and David Aardsma signing with the Royals and Indians, respectively, lefty Aaron Laffey going to the Orioles and outfielder Endy Chavez returning to the Mariners.
- The Giants avoided arbitration with infielder Joaquin Arias, signing him to a two-year deal.
– Andrew Simon