• Tanaka or bust

  • By Andrew Marchand | December 17, 2013 4:47:44 PM PST

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The Yankees covet Masahiro Tanaka, but the question remains: Will the Japanese ace be available?
Sources have made it clear the Yankees don't like the American free-agent pitching market. Even though they need another starter, they are not expected to make a late run at Matt Garza, Ervin Santana or any of the other most expensive starters.

As for Japan's Masahiro Tanaka, we have known for some time the Yankees want him badly. From the initial plan this winter, Tanaka joined Robinson Cano, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran atop the Yankees' wish list. The Yankees would love to make it 3-for-4, with Jacoby Ellsbury pinch hitting for Cano.

Tanaka wants to play in the United States in 2014, while his team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, is undecided about making him available.

The Yankees aren't undecided on him. While the $189 million payroll threshold is out the window unless Alex Rodriguez remains suspended -- and even then, they might not make it -- the Yankees will go all out for Tanaka, feeling he is exactly what they need: a high-end, young starter to bring buzz to the Bronx.

There is a feeling among some that the Yankees are destined for more free Octobers. The signing of players in their late 30s, like Tuesday's deal for Brian Roberts and picking up reliever Matt Thornton, are just Band-Aids.

That might end up being true, but Tanaka might be the guy who changes everything. Despite his undefeated season, however, no one knows if he is the next Yu Darvish or Kei Igawa.

The Yankees have to take that chance and then hope their high-end, high-level pitching fortunes change quickly. Michael Pineda turns 25 next month, while Manny Banuelos is just 22.

Pineda is returning from a serious shoulder injury, while Banuelos has a Tommy John scar on his left elbow. They might end up being nothing, but if they are something -- let's say No. 3 or 4 starters -- and Tanaka becomes an ace, then a year from now the Yankees' rotation could be:

1. Tanaka
2. CC Sabathia
3. Ivan Nova
4. Pineda
5. Banuelos

They would have depth with David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno. Suddenly, the future would look a lot different.

Of course, there are a lot of "candies and nuts" in that scenario, but the Yankees have one big move left in them this offseason -- and it is Tanaka.


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