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.