Masahiro Tanaka recently arrived in the United States to begin his tour around the league, meeting with all interested suitors. The Yankees are among those teams that he is expected to meet with within the next few days, but that hasn’t stopped them from looking around elsewhere on the free-agent market for a starting pitcher.
Santana might not be the top backup plan for Tanaka, but he could be a useful one if he proves to teams that he is healthy, and can perform at least to half of the level he was once able to pitch at.
Santana missed all of the 2013 season after undergoing shoulder surgery in spring training. He’s been rehabbing to rebuild strength in his shoulder, but hasn’t thrown off a mound yet. He’s expected to throw for teams at some point in spring training, and would likely sign a minor league deal to compete for a roster spot.
He’s missed two for the previous three seasons because of having to undergo the same shoulder surgery twice. He threw the first no-hitter in New York Mets history in 2012, but his body basically broke down after that. During his final 10 starts, his ERA skyrocketed to 8.27, and the organization decided to shut him down that August.
If the Yankees don’t get Tanaka, they’ll need to find a starting pitcher one way or another, and they have not been showing much interest in the free-agent starting pitching market so far. We might see them go after someone like Ubaldo Jimenez, but only because they would need a starter and have no other options.
If the Yankees like what they see out of Santana when he throws for teams, they could sign him to a minor league deal and let him compete for one of the final rotation spots in spring training. If he can’t handle that, then they cut him without further financial obligations.
Right now, Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno and David Huff would be competing for the final two spots. The Yankees would love to land Tanaka, meaning they would only have to fill the fifth spot internally, as compared to needing to fill two spots.
Santana has been drawing interest from a handful of teams, including a pair of his former teams, the Minnesota Twins and Mets. There has been speculation that a reunion with the Twins is very possible, but we’ll learn more over the coming weeks.
Ironically, the Yankees tried trading for Santana before the 2007 season when he was with the Twins, but New York was not willing to part ways with Phil Hughes, who signed with Twins on a three-year, $24 deal in November.