The Week Ahead: Offseason stove is getting hotter
Focus shifts to free agency's biggest names and the future of Japan's Tanaka
It's a new week, and the stove is going to get hotter very soon.
We're still three weeks out from the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and none of the big dominoes have fallen. There was a Nick Punto here (he signed with the A's) and a Marlon Byrd there (Phillies), but things won't get truly exciting until we see action on Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and the rest of this year's big-ticket items.
And that's before we even think about potential trades or the possible availability of Japanese superstar pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who may or may not be posted and become eligible to sign with a Major League team.
In other words, although the General Managers and Owners Meetings have come and gone, there still should be plenty to talk about in the baseball world in the week before Thanksgiving.
So where do we begin?
It makes sense to start with Cano, who could very well determine how the rest of the market will play out this offseason. And lo and behold, all indications right now are that the free-agent second baseman, who has only played for the New York Yankees in his stellar career, will probably not be making any decisions soon.
"Usually the big boys take a while; usually the big ones drag out," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "I certainly don't expect anything in the near term. We just got to free agency. That's what [Cano] wanted, so now that he's here, I would think that he wouldn't end it soon."
The same was being said about Ellsbury, who has played every inning of his big league career with the Red Sox. Boston GM Ben Cherington was asked last week if something might get done soon with the speedy outfielder, and he was about as specific with a time frame as Cashman.
"We're not at that point yet; if it does get to that point, we'll communicate that," Cherington said. "We've got to be working on other things at the same time, and we are. [Ellsbury's agent, Scott Boras] has got to go through what he needs to go through for his clients, and we get that. There will be time to talk in between. At some point, decisions have to be made, but, again, we're not there yet."
One area in which we might see more clarity this week is in regard to Tanaka, whose team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, won the Japan Series earlier this month. Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball have not come to an agreement on the posting system by which Japanese players can join MLB teams before completing the nine seasons necessary to attain free agency.
"What I would tell you is that we made a proposal to the Japanese," MLBs chief operating officer Rob Manfred said at last week's Owners Meetings. "When we made that proposal, we told them it was important that they give us a timely response. Unfortunately, they have not been able to do that."
Reports have said that MLB might be interested in ending the posting system entirely, but most baseball fans would rather just know if and when Tanaka, who went 24-0 in this year's regular season, might be available.
These questions might not be answered this week. Or, as so often occurs this time of year, Monday could be the start of something big.