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.


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.

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  • carpengui

    I’ll go ahead and post my idea for what I think Atlanta should offer Tampa for David Price:

    1. Joey Terdoslavich -or- Evan Gattis. They don’t have a real hitter in that lineup to support Evan Longoria. They are still looking for a first baseman and/or a DH. Either of these guys could nicely fill those roles in a manner they would like – that is to say “cheaply”.

    I love Evan, but I still don’t know about his role long-term with Atlanta, and I’m not sure his game calling is quite up to snuff. But losing him would likely force Atlanta to run with Bethancourt immediately. Hence, I think I’d rather lose Terdoslavich – who honestly might actually suit Tampa Bay better anyway.

    2. J.R. Graham. Complicating matters here is the need for him to prove to Tampa Bay that he’s fully healthy after a shoulder issue sidelined him back in June. Was said to be ready to go last month.

    3. Jose Peraza. A shortstop of the future… but not necessarily for Atlanta.

    4. David Hale. A major-league ready pitcher they could plug in right now.

    Is that enough? Hard to say. Seattle could indeed overwhelm the equation, as John Sickels grades 9 of their top 10 prospects above all but 1 or 2 of ours… and I’m not including Lucas Sims in a trade. I would certainly entertain the idea of adding even a couple more good minor leaguers to put ‘quantity’ into the offer if that would help (Pastornicky, Salcedo, for instance). But since there’s a big money part of this deal, too ($17m due in 2014 to Price), then I submit that Tampa Bay should not get too greedy.

    • Braves24

      Terdo won’t be a center piece for Price so a package of Gattis/Bethancourt, Graham, Peraza, and Terdo might get some interest from the Rays. Will the Braves do that? Absolutely not

      • carpengui

        Absent Sims, I dunno that we have a ‘centerpiece’ … hence the idea of multiple ML-ready guys and solid prospects. And Sims is a non-starter.

        Honestly in looking at all of the responses here, we’re roughly all in the same neighborhood +/- about 1 name each. The next questions, of course are these:
        1> Will Wren make the offer?
        2> Will Tampa Bay listen?

        • Braves24

          1. No

        • rick staley

          Heyward, Peraza, & Hale for Price. If the Rays want Wood instead of Hale then, Braves should ask for their utility player Rodriquez and send Pastornicky to the Rays.

          • Lee Trocinski

            I wouldn’t even do Heyward for Price straight up. They are essentially the same talent level, but Heyward is probably going to make almost $15M less during the next 2 years. While Jason hasn’t been what we thought he’d be so far, he’s still been really good, so don’t sell low on him.

    • Lee Trocinski

      You’re forgetting about Wil Myers. He and Longo are plenty good at 3-4, plus I don’t think Gattis or Terdo are any better than Matt Joyce, per se. Plus, like I said before, neither is close to a centerpiece for this deal. Graham would be if he didn’t hurt his shoulder last year. I suggested Peraza last time, and he could be a good fill-in when Yunel leaves in 2 years. I’m not as high on Hale as most of you, as I don’t see Tampa coveting a 26-year-old with 2 MLB starts and not-outstanding minor league stats.

      Bethancourt may not be on their list now that they signed Hanigan to a 3-year deal. That means Sims is a must for this trade. As good as he may be, he’s still a very raw talent nowhere near the majors. To get the big fish, you have to give up something comparable. Add something like Peraza, Terdo, and maybe Hale to Sims and you have a chance, though I still don’t think that’s the best Tampa will be offered.

      • carpengui

        I was hoping that Seattle would get Cano, and then not be so interested in Price. They are the ones with the loaded farm system who can overwhelm the Rays. At this point, I have to make them the front runners.

        You’re right, I neglected Myers (How soon we forget!). Nonetheless, I do think JoeyT is the kind of hitter that they like down there – lots of contact, line drives, gap-to-gap power.

        As for Hale… yeah, I’m trying to avoid putting Wood into the deal :].

        • carpengui

          Then again, maybe Cano ends up in Seattle anyway???

    • Brandon_Woodworth

      Wouldn’t do Graham and Hale. Joey T., Graham, and Peraza is a really solid package already. Joey T is bound to be going somewhere. Has no place in Atlanta for at least 2 full years.

  • rick staley

    thats an awesome proposal that would get most GM’s to jump at for sure. what if the braves would send jason heyward, david hale, jose peraza, jonny venters, dan uggla , and $13 million to the rays for price & ben zobrist? i dont think the braves will get to receive a signed long-term contract from j-hey. alex wood takes venters role in pen, and hopefully prolongs his possibility for damage due to lesser innings as a reliever instead of a starter.

    i feel as though jason ends up in yankee stadium wearing pinstripes. zobrist is the clubhouse calming force that mac & huddy were that also plays about 5 positions very well (including 2B). this way tommy la stella assumes 2B & zobrist will help offset loss of heywards production (when healthy). just a thought to attract rays into listening closer to wrens whisper.

    • carpengui

      Wow – that wouldn’t be a whisper… it would be closer to the roar of a jet engine!

      The basis of my offer was that it fits with the Rays’ M.O. – to obtain young, controllable (cheap) athletic talent. Heyward would fit the mold, except for the cheap part… which is exactly why Price is going to be available. Zobrist has one of the most team-friendly deals in all of baseball… and 5 straight years of 150+ games, to boot. Other than that, Venters isn’t trade material until he can show he’s healthy, and Tampa isn’t the right fit for… well, most teams, but especially not Tampa.

      I’d kill for Zobrist if La Stella wasn’t in the organization, but there probably isn’t a crowbar big enough to pry him loose, I’m afraid.

      I am indeed concerned about losing Jason after 2015.

  • fireboss

    I know that no one wants to hear this but Rick is correct. I am not suggesting it is something I’m advocating now but if Wren offers Heyward an extension and he turns it down like he did last year it would be a clear indication his future isn’t in ATL and frankly like Rick I’m sure it isn’t. So, he could be traded for a pot load prospects. Specifically the Rangers and perhaps the Red Sox have the outfield spot for him and the money to keep him. They also have the minor league prospects & major league players to create the package needed.The Braves would then have a place in left for Joey and a chance to improve their future. They’d also be short their current leadoff man and defacto leader so the package would have to be good.

    I believe however that in the end we get a draft pick as we watch him walk away.