Suspension of Yankees’ Rodriguez opens door to Tanaka signing


Sep 17, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees designated hitter

Alex Rodriguez

(13) reacts after being called out on strikes in the eighth inning by home plate umpire

Gerry Davis

(12) in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The highly-anticipated suspension of New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was handed down by arbitrator Frederic R. Horowitz, the man who was hired after Major League Baseball fired former arbitrator Shyam Das – the man who overturned Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder Ryan Braun‘s suspension two years ago.

Although Major League Baseball sought a 211-game ban for Rodriguez, this sentence that includes all of the 2014 regular season, as well as this year’s postseason, has major implications not only in the Big Apple, but around the league.

The suspension has two immediate impacts in New York. First, Rodriguez will likely be placed on the restricted list, which, in turn, opens up a 40-man roster spot for the Yankees. (Again, this is still pending due to the fact Rodriguez says he will appeal the ruling in federal court, something many legal experts say is unlikely to rule in his favor). Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, this frees up $24.3 million of payroll in 2014 – all of which was to be paid to Rodriguez.

Now this is where the rest of the league comes in.

With over two dozen teams interested in Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, there was always some question as to where he may sign. Late this week, he stated that his initial preferences in terms of location are Los Angeles, Boston and New York. The Dodgers and Yankees have always been viewed as the favorites to land Tanaka, and from the start of this whole process, I’ve stated in previous work that I feel he will end up in the Bronx.

New York desperately needs a major arm in their rotation. Questions have risen regarding the abilities of ace C.C. Sabathia, who turns 34 this summer, and although the team brought back veteran righty Hiroki Kuroda for 2014, his age is a constant factor moving forward. The final three spots in the rotation are currently projected to be filled by some combination of Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno. Granted, Nova took a big step forward last season, but he’s hardly a proven #3 starter.

Despite signing Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury this offseason – all of which were major steps forward – without an impact arm such as Tanaka, New York will likely be on the outside looking in again next season.

As for the Cubs, this move only further weakens their odds of landing Tanaka. They were considered long-shots all along, despite reports the team was willing to go to nine-figures to make a deal work out. This means that Jeff Samardzija will likely be the Opening Day starter, since the organization has reportedly decided to wait on the market to develop near the Trade Deadline to put together a trade package. That is, if the Cubs are unable to sign an extension, something they have stated they would like to do.

Travis Wood projects as the two man in the rotation after a strong 2013 campaign that saw him pitch 200 innings for the first time in his career. Edwin Jackson, who was a major disappointment last season, going 8-18 with an ERA near 5.00 for Chicago, will likely head into Spring Training competing for the three slot in the rotation, which will likely be rounded out by Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta.

While Rodriguez has indicated that this whole ordeal is far from over, it is already abundantly clear that the suspension has altered the offseason landscape in a very big way. Get ready, New York. Masahiro Tanaka could be there before you know it.