Masahiro Tanaka was in the states and has already flown back to Japan. But at this point, there is no indication that he met with the Mariners. This would go along with a report from Jason Churchill that Tanaka does not seem to be interest in signing with the Mariners.
Now, let me say that I do not believe this means the M’s are out of the Tanaka running. This front office has always been tight lipped, with very few of their impending moves being reported until they happen. That seemed to change a bit this year, but most of that was speculation from writers than it was actual insider information.
On top of that, while I respect his writing as well as radio work, Churchill is not always known as a credible source as far as rumors go. It doesn’t mean he hasn’t heard anything, but it also far from guarantees anything. How many people knew the Michael Morse trade was coming last year? Or the Kendrys Morales trade?
And how many times did we hear “Robinson Cano will not sign with Seattle?” Too many to count, and they were all wrong. Call me a skeptic, but I just have a hard time buying anything until it is official, or at least heavily confirmed by multiple media sources. Too many people jump to conclusions in their haste to have a story, and end up having bad information.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the Mariners do swing and miss on Tanaka. There is still a hole in the middle of the rotation, that has to be filled somehow.
One option would be to run with what they current have, and let the kids compete. Those kids being Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez and Brandon Maurer. The first two figure to hold a spot already, but Ramirez and Maurer could have to battle, especially if the M’s go the free agency route.
All of the names above have enough potential to possibly form a solid 3-5. But if this team wants to compete now, it may not be smart to count on three of them to hold down the slots behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.
Good teams have depth, and that is the ideal role for both Ramirez and Maurer at this point. I don’t completely count either out, especially Erasmo. But both would look much better as long guys or spot starters than full time starters.
So that brings us to free agency, where there are still three other big name starters available. Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana could all fit into the #3 spot in the rotation, and will likely be cheaper than Tanaka. However, that is because they don’t project as well as Tanaka does.
It all comes down to price. I personally would not go more than 4 years and $60 million for any of them, as they all have various flaws. Jimenez has lost velocity, and was terrible just a couple seasons ago. Garza struggles with injuries, and is slightly overrated in my book. And Santana seems like a bust candidate after having his best year in a while, after being below replacement level in 2012.
They all have upside and would be welcome additions to the rotation. But if the price is too high, it may make more sense to stick with what they have.
But perhaps my favorite option is to go after Chris Capuano to add another back end veteran to the competition. He spent time in the rotation and bullpen last year, posting a 4.26 ERA and 3.55 FIP in 105.2 innings. He isn’t as flashy — and maybe not as good — as the three I discussed above, but he likely gives you the most bang for your buck.
The M’s have a lot of options if Tanaka goes elsewhere, its just about finding the best move, both on the field and in the wallet.