Mets targeting Masahiro Tanaka in free agency can’t be ruled out
One of the first major tests of Steve Cohen’s ownership will be the Mets’ pursuit of Trevor Bauer, the top free agent pitcher available.
But with a team that has a rotation of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, a rehabbing Noah Syndergaard and little else behind it, even adding Bauer might not be enough to make the Mets contenders.
At least some people outside the organization believe Masahiro Tanaka could be a fit if he leaves the Yankees. The 32-year-old right-hander just completed his initial seven-year, $155 million deal that brought him to The Bronx, and though Tanaka had an unusually tough postseason, he was solid again during the abbreviated regular season and could slide into the middle of the Mets’ rotation.
“We don’t know much about what their strategy is going to be, since [Cohen] has never done this before,” one AL executive said. “And we have to wait and see what they do with the rest of the front office, but I don’t think you can rule them out on anything and taking a known quantity who’s pitched in New York to a short-term deal I think would make sense, along with some other things.”
A player agent noted Tanaka’s comfort level pitching in New York.
“He’s not someone you’d have to worry about in making a big adjustment or getting used to pitching in the spotlight,’’ the agent said. “And we all know he’s not the ace everyone expected when he left Japan, but he’s durable and reliable and there’s a lot to be said for that.’’
All those traits are also why Tanaka would still make sense for the Yankees, but his faltering in the postseason may have made an eighth season in The Bronx less likely.
The starting pitching market should start to take shape soon, as Stroman ($18.6 million) and the Giants’ Kevin Gausman ($18.9 million), both 29-year-old right-handers, accepted their qualifying offers and lefty Robbie Ray, also 29, signed a one-year, $8 million deal to stay with the Blue Jays.
As the AL exec said, how the Mets fill the president of baseball operations and general manager spots will figure prominently in whatever Cohen and Alderson do in their first offseason.
And with interviews already under way for the president job — former Marlins head of baseball ops Michael Hill met with Alderson about the same job with the Mets — they should have a clearer idea of how they will deal with free agency and trades soon enough.
Other possible candidates include Chris Antonetti, Mike Chernoff, Derek Falvey and David Stearns, among others.
The Mets are expected to make a hire in the next week or so.
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