There is no doubt that Masahiro Tanaka is the most coveted free agent pitcher of this offseason and has garnered more attention at his position than anyone else on the market. Many teams want to acquire him and for good reasons; with the Japanese team Rakuten, Tanaka went 24-0 last season with a 1.27 ERA and a WHIP of .943.
According to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, "Scouts say he is easily the best available starter in the market this winter, better than Matt Garza, better than Ubaldo Jimenez, and better than Ervin Santana."
New York has already made contact with Tanaka’s agents according to The Sporting News, but many other teams, including the Dodgers, Cubs, Mariners and Rangers, are also interested in the Golden Eagles superstar. With all of the suitors, there is a real chance the Yankees will not be able to sign Tanaka, so there must be a backup plan.
There are many pitchers still on the free agent market who have not been discussed since Tanaka is the prized pitching free agent of this offseason. With so many prospects available, the Yankees can go elsewhere and be happy with the results whether it is in free agency or within their own farm system.
On the free agent market, there are still three pitchers that stand out as possibilities for the Yankees in 2014.
Ubaldo Jimenez pitched for the Cleveland Indians last year and helped to lead them to a playoff spot with a record of 13-9 in addition to pitching 182.2.
Matt Garza threw 155.1 innings for the Texas Rangers last season and finished with a 10-6 record. With Tampa Bay, Garza was the ace of the 2008 staff that won the American League pennant and has had success in the postseason.
Ervin Santana is also on the free agent market and although he had a 9-10 record with Kansas City, he pitched 211.1 innings and had arguable his best season with a 3.24 ERA.
If the Yankees don’t get Tanaka, they may be hesitant to hand a big payday to a free agent, especially if they still intend to stay under the salary cap to avoid the luxury tax.
Within the Yankees organization, there might be a few much less expensive options for the Bombers, starting with Michael Pineda, who the Yankees received in the deal with Seattle for catcher Jesus Montero. Yankee fans have not seen Pineda in action since the trade because of shoulder surgery, but he is expected to be healthy for this upcoming campaign. The Yankees could also turn to David Phelps, who has filled some innings for the rotation in the past when pitchers like Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte have been injured.
There is a possibility that the Yankees could sign a free agent like Bronson Arroyo, for instance, to be a fourth starter and then let Pineda get acclimated into the rotation at the fifth spot.
Right now the organization is focusing on Tanaka and is willing to give him a nice pay day to come and pitch in the Bronx. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, the Yankees need to make sure they are not putting all of their eggs in one basket and hopefully the "B" in "plan B" will not stand for bust, as in Tanaka or bust.