A wise man once said, "The waiting game sucks. Let's play Hungry Hungry Hippo." This is pretty much the most apt description of where we've been with the Masahiro Tanaka situation this offseason. First it was waiting for the posting system agreement between the MLB and the NPB would be. Now that it's figured out, we have to wait to see if the Rakuten Golden Eagles will post him or not. This is where we are right now. Even if he is posted, the Yankees are not the only team that is going to bid for his services. Essentially, we waited and now we're waiting to potentially wait some more. It's like Disney World, only the hot dogs and beer are more expensive in the Bronx.
The Yankees have to have backup plans in case Plan Tanaka (Planaka?) falls through. At least, I would assume they do. For all we really know a DKNY Leather Wallet duct taped to an Alpaca's forehead is at the helm right now. As Andrew wrote a few days ago, the Yankees are reportedly not interested in Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez. Unless the Yankees have a trade in the works, the plan seems to be to go with internal options. The 2014 season could be the season of Michael Pineda, with or without Tanaka.
Michael Pineda's Yankees debut fell short, and by fell short I mean it didn't happen. Before the 2012 season even began, Pineda suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder. In May of 2012, he underwent surgery to repair his torn labrum. This spring training, he will be competing for the starting rotation for the first time since the Yankees traded away Jesus Montero for him. There was many a debate and discussion whether or not the Yankees did the right thing by trading Montero away. It's still too early to judge, but as that magic ball says, all signs point to yes. Next season could signal that very sign.
Pineda is still young, and there is still hope. He will be 25 years old on January 18th of next year. Pineda is not a free agent until 2017, the same time as now 33 year old CC Sabathia. Age and team control were very good reasons to trade Montero for Pineda. With all the talks we have about the Yankees needing to get younger, Pineda is a prime example of Cashman attempting to do exactly that. This particular trade has not worked out that well so far, but there is still time, and there is still hope.
The recently retired Andy Pettitte and the now Minnesota bound Phil Hughes are no longer in Pineda's way. Pineda's current competition includes David Phelps, Adam Warren, and possibly Vidal Nuno. The offseason is still young, and the Yankees could always trade for someone. The pickings are very slim though, and the Yankees do not have much to offer. Pineda might very well be the backup plan if they don't acquire Tanaka. I'm not saying it's a very good plan, mind you. The Yankees should not go into 2014 gambling on Pineda. They might not have much of a choice though.
Currently, all eyes are on Masahiro Tanaka and whether or not the Golden Eagles post him or keep him for another year or two. He will wind up in the MLB eventually, that much is certain. It's just a question of when. Until that time, the Yankees rotation remains a question mark block. We don't know what we're getting until we hit it. CC Sabathia could gain an extra life and put 2013 behind him as "that one bad year" he had. Hiroki Kuroda might continue with his early on invincibility but have it run out too early. Ivan Nova will hopefully continue his growth. Even if they both come back and pitch well, the Yankees still need a young rotation for the future.
With that in mind, come Spring Training all eyes should be on Michael Pineda. He could very well be the key to the future of the Yankees rotation, even more than Masahiro Tanaka.