Signing Masahiro Tanaka Could Easily Payoff For The New York Yankees

by Gavin Ewbank | Posted on Saturday, October 12th, 2013
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Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price thinks it’ll be very likely that he gets traded this winter, and that would make him the most talented pitcher on the trading market.

For the New York Yankees, I really don’t see any way they would be able to obtain Price, or even engage in serious talks for the Cy Young left-hander, but they may still be able to get the best pitcher on the free-agent market.

After an initial story yesterday by the NY Post, I reported here on that the Yankees are expected to progressively pursue Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka when he becomes eligible for posting in November.

You can believe whatever you want when I say this, but Tanaka has been regarded as being just as good as Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers, who the Yankees didn’t even make a bid on. Though the scouting reports suggest that Darvish’s stuff may be a little crisper than Tanaka’s, he’s still built as a good pitcher – one that the Yankees could use.

[quote]“He is better than Darvish because he is a strike thrower,’’ the scout said told the Post. “Overall, Darvish’s stuff might be a little bit better, but this guy knows how to pitch. He is like Kuroda; he has a lot of guts. He throws four pitches but when it gets to [stone]-cutting time, it’s fastball and splitter.’’[/quote]

With Andy Pettitte retiring this offseason, the Yankees are going to need to find a starter that can replace him in the rotation.

If they can add Tanaka, get a good turn great around season from CC Sabathia, put Ivan Nova on track for an entire year, and then re-sign Hiroki Kuroda for one more season — assuming he doesn’t head back to Japan to finish his career – the Yankees would have a very formidable one through four, with other pitchers like David Phelps, Michael Pineda and Vidal Nuno filling the fifth starter slot.

Maybe the biggest reason a deal for Tanaka would work well for the Yankees is that signing him would almost do much to hurt Hal Steinbrenner’s goal of getting payroll under $189 million.

If you’re unaware of how the posting system works, basically, the MLB teams must place bids with the team that the posted player is under contract with. The team with the highest bid at the deadline wins the rights to then negotiate a contract with the player within a 30-day window.

If the MLB team with the winning bid and the NPB player agree on contract terms before the 30-day period has expired, the NPB team receives the bid amount as a transfer fee, and the player is free to play in MLB. If the MLB team cannot come to a contract agreement with the posted player, then no fee is paid, and the player’s rights revert to his NPB team.

In Tanaka’s case, the winning bid on him will likely be around $60 million. But that’s a lot of money, right? Yes, but here’s the good part. While that posting fee may sound like a lot, it has no effect on the team’s payroll, meaning it wouldn’t affect the $189 plan.

The only thing that would count against the Yankees’ payroll is the contract that they would be negotiating with him – which, again in Tanaka’s case, is probably going to be somewhere in the range of six-years, $60 million – the same deal that Darvish got.

The $10 million a year would be perfect for the Yankees, as the retiring Pettitte cost the Yanks $12 million in 2013, so they’re actually saving $2 million in replacing Pettitte who was a great pitcher.

The Yankees really like Tanaka, who went 22-0 with a 1.23 ERA in the Pacific League this season, and spent a lot of time watching him this year, having sent assistant general manager Billy Eppler and respected pro scout and former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu to watch him.

Of course, the Yankees would reason to worry about signing Tanaka, no matter how much they like him, because signing a Japanese pitcher has already burned them.

If you remember, the Bombers signed Kei Igawa out of Japan not long ago to a five-year, $20 million deal, after the $26 million posting fee, they were in $46 million on Igawa. But he failed miserably in New York, going 2-4 with a 6.66 ERA in 16 games from 2007-08.

Tanaka, who will turn 25 in November, is a different pitcher, though, and the Yankees should do everything they can to bring him in, because the free-agent class of pitchers this winter will cost more than they actual on-field value.

There are a lot of things that the Yankees and GM Brian Cashman need to fix this offseason, and the rotation should be near that top of that list – behind bringing back Robinson Cano.

Obviously Tanaka won’t fix the entire rotation by himself, but signing him to come pitch in the Bronx can end up being one of the smartest things that Cashman does this winter.

Gavin Ewbank covers the Yankees for Baseball Hot Corner. Follow @GavinEwbank2013 on Twitter for offseason coverage.

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Gavin Ewbank
About the Author

Living in always-too-hot Florida, Gavin an MLB Columnist for BHC. Apart from that, he occasionally covers high school sports for the Palm Coast Observer. You can follow Gavin on Twitter @GavinEwbank.

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