Rounding Third: Spring training can't come soon enough

Philadelphia, PA ( - If there is such a thing as the dog days of summer, then the same must apply to the winter, and if that is the case, then for baseball people, the month of January fits the bill.

Baseball's offseason gets off and running in November, as the awards are handed out and teams start to formulate their offseason plan. December is when the winter meetings take place and most of the big free agents usually find homes by Christmas.

Of course, February is great because the season is again upon us with the start of spring training.

But January? Aside from the Hall of Fame announcement, it's awful, and at the moment it's even worse because of this Polar Vortex that has gripped much of the country and has temperatures here in the Northeast holding steady at right around 5 degrees.

But there is still some coal on the Hot Stove, especially when it comes to the starting pitching department. But those fires really won't be stoked until Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka finds a home.

Despite the new provisions that made it possible for every team to try to work out a deal, it looks as if it's a two-horse race between the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Under the new rules set this offseason, the cap on the posting fee was set at $20 million. Whereas in the past negotiating rights went to the highest bidder, any team that wanted a chance to negotiate had to put up $20 million and those teams could negotiate with Tanaka for up to 30 days.

Clubs who do not secure a deal to get the righty will have their cash refunded. However, if a contract is worked out, the $20 million will go to his former team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

The Yankees appear to have the inside track and that is a good thing because they have seemingly banked their entire offseason on landing the former Rakuten Golden Eagles ace, which is kind of a funny thing to write considering they've already spent more than $300 million this winter. But they can bring in all the Jacoby Ellsburys and Brian McCanns they want, the Yankees still have huge question marks in their rotation.

So who exactly is Masahiro Tanaka? Honestly ... who knows? I didn't catch a whole lot of Golden Eagles games the past few years, but he did go 24-0 this past season with a 1.27 ERA in 28 games.

I tried watching some YouTube clips of him, but you know how that goes. You start watching something you want and then you wind up in a wormhole that ends with you watching the 1986 WWF King of the Ring.

In case you are interested, Harley Race beat Pedro Morales in the finals of that one.

But anyway, from what I can gather, Tanaka seems to be more Daisuke Matsuzaka than Yu Darvish. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that he won't overpower you the way Darvish does, he works the corners. Another scouting report indicated he had used his power pitches more this past year than in the past.

Now the Yankees, Dodgers and probably some other mystery team we're not thinking about aren't the only ones waiting on Tanaka. There are still a lot of quality starting pitchers waiting to be signed, but it seems as if nothing is going to happen until the Tanaka domino falls.

Other than Tanaka the three biggest free agent pitchers are right-handers Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana. Even lesser arms like Bronson Arroyo are waiting for a Tanaka outcome.

Then once the free agents start to sign, the trade market will open back up, particularly in the case of Tampa Bay lefty David Price. If the Dodgers miss out on Tanaka, they may act quick on the former Cy Young Award winner.

If that happens, good luck dealing with that staff of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Price going forward.

So, yes, if the newswires seem slow at the moment, don't despair, January may actually be busier than usual. And let's not forget we still have the Alex Rodriguez decision.


Business will start to pick up again on Wednesday with the Hall of Fame announcement. We'll have more on this then, but I expect Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Craig Biggio to definitely get in. Tom Glavine will probably be elected as well, but I would not be shocked if he has to wait longer.

And again Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Jack Morris come up short.

Remember this as you try and keep warm this week, it's only another month until pitchers and catchers report.