If they can secure him, he'll rank as one of their biggest expenditures of an already busy winter. The Yankees have been keeping Tanaka on their radar for quite some time, and with the recent announcement that he will be available to Major League clubs via the posting system, the standout right-hander has to be considered the club's top priority right now.
The Yankees will have plenty of company in what promises to turn into a big-ticket bidding war, so managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner seems to be indicating that he is willing to scrap the goal of a $189 million payroll if it means bringing Tanaka to the Bronx.
The posting fee is capped at $20 million, payable to the Rakuten Golden Eagles by any team signing Tanaka. That change in the system levels the playing field among big league clubs, and early speculation has indicated that Tanaka and his representative, Casey Close, will command at least a five-year deal worth approximately $100 million.
For comparison purposes, the Red Sox spent $103.1 million on Daisuke Matsuzaka before the 2007 season, but $51.1 million of that went to the Seibu Lions as a posting fee. The Rangers paid a $51.7 million posting fee to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters before the '12 season, then signed Yu Darvish to a six-year, $56 million deal. Teams have until 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 24 to work out an agreement with Tanaka.
There's been a lot of speculation about David Price being on the trade block. Are the Yankees involved at all?
-- Matt O., Philadelphia, Pa.
It looks like the Yankees are going to have to sit that one out. Forget what he said about his facial hair, it's difficult to come up with a prospect package from the Yankees' farm system that would entice the Rays enough to trade Price within the division, and certainly not a more appealing deal than the Rays could find from at least a half-dozen clubs. Thus, Tanaka continues to look like the Yankees' best option for a rotation upgrade going into the new year.
Why have I heard nothing about Dean Anna? Do the Yanks have plans for him?
-- Monty M., New York, N.Y.
Anna, 27, could be a name you wind up hearing more when the Yankees hit camp in Florida. A second baseman who also played 60 games at shortstop last year for the Padres' Triple-A affiliate, Anna was acquired from San Diego in November for Minor League right-hander Ben Paullus.
The left-handed hitter has shown a nice bat coming up through the Padres' chain, posting a .331/.410/.482 split last year at Triple-A. His defense is said to be a little suspect, but he figures to get a good look in Spring Training and should be in competition for a roster spot.
What are the chances of Michael Pineda pitching in the Major Leagues in 2014?
-- John C., Bellmore, N.Y.
I may be a little more bullish on Pineda than some other voices out there. The Yankees seem to be downplaying his potential in order to keep expectations low, and after he missed all of the last two seasons following right labrum surgery, that's understandable. But Pineda is said to be in good shape and finished the year healthy, which sounds promising.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman is more skeptical, saying they just hope they can get the All-Star pitcher acquired from Seattle. It's hard to say if Pineda will be able to come back as a dominant rotation piece, but he'll be in camp competing for a spot at the back end of the starting five. My thought is that Pineda should be able to at least make some level of contribution at the big league level in 2014.
What are the reasonable expectations for Brian Roberts? He hasn't played close to a full season since 2009.
-- Luke M., Milford, Conn.
No, he hasn't, and the 77 games he played last season were Roberts' most since that 2009 campaign (159 games) with the Orioles, posting a split of .249/.312/.392. His last four seasons have been ruined by injuries, and though he's a two-time All-Star, Roberts has been just about a league-average player (0.9 WAR) in the 192 games he did play the past four years.
You're looking at a low-risk addition who could have some payoff, and just as easily might not help much at all. The biggest challenge will be keeping Roberts off the disabled list, something the Yankees did successfully with another injury-prone player in Eric Chavez, but less so last year with Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner. Roberts slides alongside those names as an affordable $2 million gamble for the Yanks.
Are the Yankees going to sign a DH or will they try and rotate a player there every day?
-- Michael B., Valley Cottage, N.Y.
Cashman said recently that the Yankees are looking to have an outfield manned by Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano, and that Joe Girardi will be able to pick and choose who is playing the field and who is DH. The DH spots would be more divided between Beltran and Soriano, and Cashman said there will be no exclusive DH. How, or if, they'll use Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells is still uncertain.
I think Gardner will be traded in a package deal for pitching help. What's your take on it?
-- John P., Bronx
Gardner isn't untouchable, but I wouldn't say it is a lock he will be traded. Actually, I'd tilt the odds in the other direction, as I expect he'll be in Spring Training with the Yanks. The Yankees have made it pretty clear that they will only deal Gardner if it means they can get a No. 1 or No. 2 type starter in return. Thus far, teams haven't been willing to offer that rich of a package for Gardner.