Braves Scouting Japanese Star


If you don’t know the name Masahiro Tanaka you will soon. Tanaka is the latest superstar pitcher from Japan and he’s having what you might call a pretty good year, okay a great year. His line after his September 6th start  looked like this.

W/L 20-0, 1.24 ERA, 181 IP in 23 GS, 142 H, 27 BB (WHIP 0.9337) , 16 HR allowed (0.29 HR/9) 56 K (4.27 2.78 / 9 innings)

While the Japanese league isn’t the grind that MLB is and certainly the talent level isn’t the same, those are pretty impressive numbers. So why are we interested? Well apparently sufficient time has passed from our last Japanese misadventure that we are once more considering jumping into that market and Tanaka is almost certain to post this winter. Our interest was disclosed in Ben Badler’s write up over at Baseball America (membership required).

“According to.Japanese media outlet Sponichi, the Braves, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Red Sox and Yankees were among the teams with scouts in attendance.”

Here’s a look at Tanaka via You Tube.

Badler profiled Tanaka last month calling him “The most prized talent in Japan…” and suggests that Tanaka could be the most coveted pitcher on the market this offseason followed by Hiroki Kuroda and Matt Garza.

Scouting reports indicate that the 24 year old, 6-foot-2, 205 pound Tanaka could step right into most major league rotations as a number two starter. He features a 90+ MPH fastball that occasionally touches 96 but tend to be a bit flat, as well as splitter (rated a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale) with hard downward drop,  a slider that’s also a plus pitch (over 60 on the aforementioned scale) and a curve he mixes in to keep hitters off balance. All of that means he’ll be expensive because whatever the contract is the team will have to pay a posting fee.  Essentially the posting fee is a blind auction for the right to negotiate with the player. The money will go to his current team – in this case the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles – as an offset for their loss.  It was reported that the the Dodgers paid a fee of $25.25M for the right to negotiate with Ryu Hyun-Jin  while the Rangers paid $51.7M to negotiate with  Yu Darvish who received a six-year, $60 million contract on top of that .Tanaka is not Darvish but you could still expected a posting fee of $40M and while Darvish took  @ 6o sources estimate that it will take a five year $75M deal to ink Tanaka.  That would effectively be a five year $115M deal and seems completely out of character for the Braves.

That’s a Wrap

The Braves face a struggle with the Red Sox, Rangers, Yankees, and possibly the Giants and Jays also reported to be involved and most have deeper pockets with owners willing to pony up some money if needed.  Whether another Japanese pitcher would sign with the Braves is also up for discussion. The Braves last foray into Japan was a disaster. Kenshin Kawakami was an older pitcher and some scouts doubted his long-term durability in MLB.  As we know he was Kawakami didn’t flourish in Atlanta more I believe because he never quite fit in than because he was awful. With a guaranteed contract of $^M a year the Braves were unable to find a trading partner for him and he refused to go back to Japan so he languished in AA until the contract ended. Many feel that the Braves handing of that situation didn’t set well in Japan and could effect whether another pitcher would sign there. In any event I think this is a very long shot.

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Tags: Atlanta Braves FanSided Masahiro Tanaka

  • Robert Joseph Cerasuolo

    The last time the Braves did this it was a disappointment and I don’t think we should take the risk or the money. I say trade Heyward I know not something I wouldnt want the Braves to do but hes getting injury prone year by year Christain Behtancourt Matt lipka and Dan Uggla to KC for Bonofacio Luis Mendoza and Pedro Ciriaco

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      Ummmm….. Bethancourt isn’t going anywhere – except maybe to Atlanta for 2014 – now that he’s hitting, he is firmly in Atlanta’s near-future plans. The only thing that _could_ change that would be a shock: Brian MCCann re-signing.

      Yes, there are a few teams that we could maybe interest in taking Uggla… provided that Atl pays 2/3rds of his contract. We don’t need Bonifacio – we have a really good 2B coming (La Stella). … unless you’re talking about _Jorge_ Bonifacio :)

      As for Heyward: a broken jaw and appendicitus doesn’t exactly fall under the category or ‘injury prone’… at least not for this year. Frank Wren made a contract extension offer to him back in the Spring. It went unsigned. We’ll see after this year.

      Back on topic, though: Tanaka is a long shot… but at least worth doing the ‘due diligence’ scouting bit.

      • cheadrick

        Yeah I’d take on Tanaka based on his numbers in Japan. Project if nothing else, and there’s always a risk. Don’t know if JHey will stay in the leadoff spot, but although he’s not the prototypical leadoff, I think he excels there, and he’s much faster than he looks. I agree not that injury prone. He’s just had some hiccups with things he couldn’t control very well. Finally, by NO means should Bethancourt go anywhere! He’s the future of Atlanta catching, or in my opinion, should be. Cya Dan? Cool.

    • fireboss

      Well let’s see, Bethancourt isn’t leaving period but even if he was KC has one of the best young catcher’s in the game now, they have no use for him. Luis Mendoza is a 29 year pitcher with a 5.36 ERA this year and a 1.585 WHIP, why do we need that? Pedro Ciriaco is a journeyman utility infielder, if Ramiro Pena returns he’s better. While Emilio Bonifacio always gave the Braves trouble and I wouldn’t mind having him on board he’s never been an everyday player or at least never convinced any team he’s an everyday player. The three of them together might be worth Lipka and Uggla if we pay 70% of Uggla’s contract. In any case I doubt KC is eager to add another 160 strikeout bat they just got rid of Francoeur.
      IF Heyward refuses a multi-year extension they may consider trading him but not because he got hit by a pitch and had appendicitis

  • cheadrick

    Fred, found an image from USA Today Sports. Whew ;-) Saw today that Tanaka just broke record with 21 wins in Japanese league. Granted, Japanese league, but anytime you can win 21 games, you’re worth looking at!

    • fireboss

      He’s going to win their equivalent of the Cy Young this year and that will make him more expensive Rangers could well make another splash as Darvish is a success and this young man can slide right in. They have the money too. Boston not so much with Bucholz and Lester back to being themselves the Yankees though are very hard up for pitching and could make a ridiculous offer as posting doesn’t count against the cap. We will bid but I’d be surprised if we bid enough. Maybe we could send Uggla in trade?

      • cheadrick

        Well you need to add some value to the money :) lol

  • Bruce Levi

    How do you figure 56 K in 181 IP equates to 4.27 K / 9 IP? Check your stats… something is wrong.

    • fireboss

      You’re correct it should be 2.78. I probably fat fingered a key when entering it and missed it when I posted. and proofread. I fixed it. Thanls