New Year to hold plenty of Hot Stove heat
Fate of Tanaka, Price could determine where the other pitching dominoes will fall
New Year's Day was a time for bowl games, taking out the trash and pondering resolutions.
Now it's Jan. 2, and the focus just has to shift a little bit back to baseball, doesn't it?
There's plenty to resolve in 2014, after all, and the biggest ribbon that's yet to be tied comes all the way from Japan in the form of the best pitcher now officially available on the open market, Masahiro Tanaka.
You have to wonder how many of the 30 big league teams have spent the holidays preparing packages designed to entice the 25-year-old right-hander who went 24-0 for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball last year.
Sure, there's plenty of time left for the bidding, but Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana (and their agents and families) have to be hitting refresh on a few Tanaka articles, too, wondering how the rest of the starting pitching free-agent scene will play out in the coming months prior to Spring Training.
So there's still a lot to chew on -- even if you swore off food after the big ball dropped at midnight Wednesday.
David Price, for example. He hasn't been traded from Tampa Bay, and he very well might not be traded, but that hasn't stopped everybody around the game from wondering what would happen if he were to be traded.
He's the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner and one of the best left-handed starters in the game, so naturally his presence in another rotation could alter the '14 standings dramatically.
The Rays have been and presumably will continue to be understandably mum when it comes to Price's future, but they have been known to shake up the roster a bit more than most.
"It's who we are," said Andrew Friedman, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations. "We've had a lot of change, really, every offseason. There hasn't been an offseason with minimal turnover. The important thing is that for the most part, our core guys have stayed in place, and we've been able to supplement around our core group."
There could be other deals now that the annual lull in the wheeling and dealing schedule has ended, so stay tuned beginning Jan. 2.
The list of available free agents isn't as big or as high-profile as it was entering December, but there's still plenty of talent out there.
In addition to Tanaka, Jimenez, Garza and Santana atop the starting pitching board, teams can also shoot for Bronson Arroyo, A.J. Burnett, Chris Capuano, Barry Zito, Scott Baker, Jason Hammel, Tommy Hanson, Bruce Chen, Jake Westbrook and Paul Maholm.
The list of available position players still includes Nelson Cruz, Kendrys Morales, Stephen Drew, Delmon Young, Mark Reynolds, Placido Polanco, Michael Young, Juan Pierre and Reed Johnson.
Looking for a closer? Grant Balfour's still there, as are Fernando Rodney, Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Rafael Betancourt and Kevin Gregg.
And situational relievers abound in free agency, from Luis Ayala, Kyle Farnsworth, Frank Francisco, Matt Guerrier, Carlos Marmol, Francisco Rodriguez and Brett Myers on the right side to Eric O'Flaherty, Mike Gonzalez, Oliver Perez and Rich Hill on the left.
And aside from all that, the new year brings the heated discussion that comes with the voting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, with first-time contenders Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent mixed in with controversial candidates Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa along with Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jack Morris and many more.
The results of the next Cooperstown class will be revealed next Wednesday.
Expect there to be plenty of baseball to talk about before then.