After years of serving as baseball's bridesmaid, the Rangers are finally hoping they've found their Mr. Right.
The Hot Stove may be cooling slightly, but the rumors and player movement never stops completely. Click here for the latest MLB Player News and follow @Rotoworld_BB on Twitter for all the newest developments. Your humble author can be found on Twitter as well at @Nate_Grimm.
Shin-Soo Choo agreed to terms with the Rangers on a seven-year, $130 million contract on December 21 that ensured both the player and the team would have a happy holiday. The deal was made official Thursday after Choo passed his physical.
The left-handed hitting Choo was the last superstar left on the market, and he will fit in well with the Rangers. The 31-year-old exhibited exceptional on-base skills this past season that will play well at the top of the Texas lineup ahead of Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder and the rest of the potent Rangers offense. He also possesses enough pop to generate some offense of his own, a skill that will come in handy in Arlington. And after being asked to play center field for the Reds in 2013, Choo will also move back to left field, a more natural position for him.
To some, Choo's signing also earned the Rangers the title of offseason champs. On offense, the team is now loaded, with few visible weak spots -- the earlier addition of Fielder via trade solidified their first base situation, and moving Ian Kinsler allowed them to find playing time for both Jurickson Profar and Elvis Andrus. A rotation headlined by Yu Darvish and Derek Holland should be better with the return of Matt Harrison and a full season of Martin Perez. And despite losing Joe Nathan, the bullpen remains strong with Joakim Soria and a post-Tommy John Neftali Feliz manning the back end.
The Rangers played in two consecutive World Series in 2010 and 2011 but fell just short of the title. They're hoping Choo is the right guy to finally put a ring on it.
It's Tanaka Time
Masahiro Tanaka won 99 games over the last seven seasons for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball league. Now, he'll try his hand in Major League Baseball.
After months of 'will he, won't he' speculation, it was announced Wednesday that Rakuten would post the 25-year-old. Tanaka was posted on December 26 and any team willing to put up the $20 million posting fee can negotiate with Tanaka. The winning team, which is expected to guarantee Tanaka north of $100 million, will be known no later than January 24, the designated signing deadline for the right-hander.
What they'll be getting is the most dominant pitcher in Japan's top professional baseball league. Tanaka has a career .739 winning percentage in NPB, going 99-35 with 18 shutouts, 53 complete games and a 2.30 ERA. He's never pitched fewer than 155 innings in a season. And he did all that under the age of 25.
He's been even more unhittable in recent years. Since 2011, Tanaka is 53-9 while posting ERAs of 1.27, 1.87 and 1.27 from 2011 to 2013, respectively. In 2013, Tanaka went a remarkable 24-0 in 27 starts. In his 28 games -- he entered one game in relief, picking up the save, because, why not? -- Tanaka allowed a total of 30 runs. It was Tanaka's world, and NPB hitters were just living in it.
He'll have no shortage of suitors over the next month, as nearly every team is expected to show at least superficial interest in the 25-year-old. The Yankees are a popular rumored landing spot because they have the need and the money to go after Tanaka hard. The same applies to the Cubs, although they're further from contending than most of the teams that will be in play. The Dodgers, Angels and Diamondbacks, among many others, are also spots that make sense as aggressive suitors.
Tanaka has already chosen an agent, hiring Casey Close -- the agent to Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, among others -- but there isn't likely to be a quick resolution to this process. The posting saga may be over, but the Tanaka drama is likely just beginning.
Hot Stove Quick Hits: The closer carousel hit high gear this past week, with Grant Balfour leaving and then re-entering the market when the Orioles nixed his two-year deal after a physical. The team was then said to be showing aggressive interest in Fernando Rodney, with Tommy Hunter the most likely in-house option. Balfour, for his part, says he's "100 percent fine" physically ... Matt Kemp is slowly recovering from ankle surgery he had in October, shedding his walking boot approximately two weeks ago. He should be ready for the Dodgers' season-opening games in Australia in late March ... the Dodgers signed Chris Perez to a one-year, $2.25 million contract. Perez will be behind Kenley Jansen and Brian Wilson for save opportunities but is a nice protection plan for the Dodgers in case of injury or ineffectiveness ... the Yankees have been in contact with Bronson Arroyo. The 36-year-old's market is a bit murky, with the Reds reportedly out and the Twins not close to signing him, but the Angels, Orioles and Diamondbacks are all names that make some sense, per ESPN's Jerry Crasnick ... the Phillies and Ryan Madson have some mutual interest in a reunion. Madson will likely come cheap to whichever team signs him as he works his way back from elbow issues ... the Dodgers and Jamey Wright agreed to a one-year deal. The reliever put up a 3.09 ERA and 65/23 K/BB ratio in 70 innings with the Rays in 2013 ... Eric Surkamp was claimed by the White Sox from the Giants after he was placed on waivers ... Mark Teixeira said he is close to 100 percent healthy. "I feel like I'm healed," the 33-year-old told MLB.com ... the Diamondbacks made two moves, re-signing Eric Chavez to a one-year pact while inking reliever Brad Ziegler to a two-year extension. Ziegler's deal is worth $9.5 million and also includes a $5.5 million club option for 2016 ... J.P. Howell returned to the Dodgers on a two-year, $11 million deal ... Kurt Suzuki received a one-year, $2.75 million deal to back up Josmil Pinto in Minnesota ... the Giants sold the rights of Brett Pill to the Korean Baseball Organization's KIA Tigers. Chris Colabello declined a similar offer from another KBO team.