The New York Yankees’ signing of Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka to a reported seven-year, $155-million deal on Wednesday doesn’t really change much for the Angels in their pursuit of a starting pitcher.
Though the Angels scouted Tanaka thoroughly and liked him a lot, they did not make a formal offer to the 25-year-old right-hander, General Manager Jerry Dipoto said.
The fact the Angels were not among the teams that met with Tanaka and his agent earlier this month — in Los Angeles — was a strong indication they would not be an aggressive bidder for him.
With about $15 million of wiggle room under the $189-million luxury-tax threshold, veteran right-hander Matt Garza, 30, whom the Angels have targeted since November, has always seemed a better fit.
But the Angels don’t want to overpay for Garza, who has had a history of elbow problems, and like many teams, they have been waiting for his price — in years and dollars — to come down.
The problem is, Garza and other pitchers such as Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez have been waiting for Tanaka to sign in anticipation of a Tanaka deal driving their prices up. And, chances are, it will.
The Angels have shown no inclination to pursue Santana or Jimenez because signing either of the right-handers would cost them their first-round pick (15th overall) in the June draft.
Arroyo has been a sturdy and effective innings-eater, but he turns 37 in February and is looking for a three-year deal — or, at the least, two years plus a vesting option — and he might not be as effective in the American League.
Garza, a California native who went to Fresno State, is the best fit, but would the Angels be willing to go five years and $60 million or six years and $75 million for him? That would be a huge gamble, but that may be what Garza costs.
Garza is 67-67 with a 3.84 earned-run average in eight seasons, but a shoulder injury limited him to 155 1/3 innings last season, and an elbow injury limited him to 103 2/3 innings in 2012. He has gone on the disabled list four times since 2009, three because of elbow injuries.
The Angels did not pursue Tanaka aggressively because with Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson consuming $81.5 million of the luxury-tax threshold through 2016 and Mike Trout due for a huge raise — through arbitration or a long-term deal — they didn’t want to take on one more nine-figure deal.
If they are unable to meet Garza’s asking price, they could turn to lesser pitchers such as Chris Capuano and Paul Maholm, but General Manager Jerry Dipoto said earlier this month that he would be satisfied with a rotation of Weaver, Wilson, Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs.
Veteran left-hander Mark Mulder, who is attempting a comeback after missing the last three seasons because of shoulder injuries, could also push for a rotation spot.