How Masahiro Tanaka Complicates Everyone's Off-Season

Uncredited, from Japan Times online, Nov 12, 2013.

Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers.  $51.7 million posting fee, $56 million contract for 6 years.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Red Sox.  $51.11 million posting fee, $52 million contract for 6 years.

Now there is Masahiro TanakaMaximum posting fee:  $20 million... and every team will be able to offer that figure (while the ultimate winner is the only one whose check gets cashed), according to information about the new agreement between the MLB and the Japanese League.

 

Teams are already lining up for the chance to negotiate for Tanaka’s services.  Which ones, you ask?

  • New York Yankees, definitely
  • Seattle Mariners, definitely
  • Toronto Blue Jays, definitely
  • Chicago Cubs, very likely
  • Texas Rangers, possibly
  • Los Angeles Dodgers, probably
  • Boston Red Sox, possibly
  • Arizona Diamondbacks, possibly
  • Philadelphia Phillies, possibly
  • Detroit Tigers, maybe
  • Los Angeles Angels, doubtful
  • Atlanta Braves… not real likely

Next question:  why Tanaka?  Several reasons:

  • He will cost nothing in terms of prospects.  It’s “only” money that’s involved.
  • The $20m posting fee does not count against the luxury tax (relevant for only a couple of clubs)
  • Any pitcher who throws in the low-mid 90’s and sports a record of 24-0 in any professional league (his 2013 campaign) has to get attention.  He also has had a K-to-BB ratio over the past 3 years between 5.7:1 and 9:1.
  • He’s still barely only 25 years old.

So now we have a perfect storm of events seemingly coming together:

  • Baseball’s Winter Meetings (December 9-12)
  • We’re starting to see some nonspecific rumblings that Tampa Bay is getting ready to engage in trade talks for David Price – likely next week
  • The long-awaited overhaul of the Japanese posting system being nearly complete, the posting of Tanaka will not be far behind.

THURS. MIDDAY UPDATE:  Well, this is certainly part of the complication.  Tanaka’s current team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, isn’t happy at all with the new posting agreement.  They were hoping for/expecting something in excess of $50 million for a posting, and were the initial lone dissenting vote in their league when the agreement was reached.  In typical Japanese fashion, they nonetheless signed off on the pact, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily will use the new posting rules:  seems they may now opt to keep him, calling that a better value than a mere $20 million fee.

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Since several teams are likely to be in the mix for Tanaka (if he is ultimately posted), negotiations will definitely take longer than they would have under the previous system, which involved exactly one winning bidder team.  You may have also noticed that the teams looking at Tanaka are also included in the list of clubs that will be talking with Tampa Bay about David Price.

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay may have to wait.  And frankly, they probably should.  Somebody will meet their needs in a trade for Price – it’s only a matter of time.  If they want to settle the matter earlier, though - and doing so would certainly make sense as they try to finalize the make-up of their club for 2014 – then teams in the mix for Tanaka could end up being left out for Price.

At least, I hope so… for Atlanta’s sake.  For the rich have indeed gotten richer in the National league this off-season.  Thus far, Atlanta has gotten poorer, losing Brian McCann, Tim Hudson, et al.

That’s probably the best (only?) way that Atlanta could get a chance at David Price.  By diversion.  Or distraction.  Or maybe blackmail, which I’m still convinced is what had to be involved for the lopsided Doug Fister trade earlier this week.

The consensus among national writers is that Atlanta may have to settle for second… or third… best as they don’t have the farm system to offer Tampa Bay want they would want.  That’s probably true.  Arizona and Seattle seem to be leading that race for Price, at least on paper.  Oddly enough, the same players involved for the Justin Upton trade (Seattle’s unapproved trade offer, plus Atlanta’s accepted offer) may be involved again this yearincluding Randall Delgado, according to reports.

Meanwhile:  should the Braves be ‘in” on Tanaka?  Not in my opinion, no.  He’s actually not quite the pitcher that Darvish is, and the money is still going to be significant.  Additionally, Atlanta would be playing from behind since somebody will undoubtedly whisper the name “Kenshin Kawakami” into Tanaka’s ear.  Plus, while the Braves could muster the social support system needed for a Japanese player getting acclimated to such a strange new region, other cities (New York, Seattle, Los Angeles) have inherent advantages over Atlanta.

 

If I Had to Guess Right Now…

…then I would say Tanaka goes to one of:  Yankees, Cubs, Mariners.  If Seattle doesn’t get him, then they get Price.

And that leaves the Braves with somebody like Jeff Samardzija, Scott Feldman, or… nobody terribly interesting (with apologies to Ben).  Even Feldman wants $30 million.

 

But I’ve been wrong before.  A lot.

Tags: Atlanta Braves

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