And now, the big news we’ve been waiting for:
The Yankees officially announced the Tanaka signing this afternoon.
Many, including this writer, assumed the Dodgers were the front-runners. But that’s what one gets for assuming. The Yankees, of course, have always been mentioned as a strong possibility as well. New York provides a huge platform, the Yankees have deep pockets and, of course, Tanaka’s agent Casey Close is also Derek Jeter’s agent, providing a long track record of business dealings between him and the Yankees brass.
This puts to an end the Yankees’ alleged goal of getting the payroll below $189 million and thus avoiding luxury tax payments. But that’s Hal Steinbrenner’s problem, not Yankees’ fans. More important to them is that the Yankees now have a front line starter to go along with CC Sabathia at the top of the rotation. If Tanaka can come anywhere close to approximating his work in Japan and if Sabathia regains his old form, the Yankees’ 1-2 punch will be hard to match.
As for what he did in Japan: a 99-35 record with a 2.35 ERA and 1,238 strikeouts against 275 walks in 1,315 innings pitched across seven seasons. In 2013 he was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and a 183/32 K/BB ratio in 212 innings, leading the Rakuten Golden Eagles to the NPB World Series title.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.
According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.
Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.
While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.
Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton is scheduled for another knee exam on Monday, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Hamilton left camp last week after feeling some pain in his left knee and received a PRP injection to alleviate the symptoms. Wilson notes that both Dr. Walt Lowe and Rangers’ assistant general manager Mike Daly noticed little improvement in the days following the injection.
More drastic measures could be necessary if the 35-year-old intends to return to the field this year. MLB.com’s TR Sullivan adds that the Rangers are considering arthroscopic surgery for Hamilton, which would set him back at least 4-6 weeks and eliminate any real chance of his making the Opening Day roster in April. Until they see the results of the surgery, however, the Rangers won’t rule out Hamilton’s potential return to the big leagues in 2017.
Hamilton is looking at his third major procedure since the end of the 2015 season. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. Should he make a full recovery this season, he figures to see some time at first base/DH or the corner outfield.