Where Will He Sign: Masahiro Tanaka

by Clayton Richer | Posted on Monday, November 18th, 2013
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Masahiro Tanaka

In a new offseason feature BHC writers will explore the possible landing spots for high priced free agents. In the third edition of “Where Will He Sign” the staff analysed the possible teams in play for the services of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Brendan Pannikar @Panikkar37: Many people feel that Masahiro Tanaka is not a game changing pitcher like Yu Darvish but is better than Daisuke Matsuzaka. Tanaka is in between these two players though his numbers in Japan do show otherwise. Tanaka is 25 years old and ended this past regular season with a 24-0 record with a 1.27 ERA and if you add in the post-season, Tanaka was 30-0. His numbers will command a high bid process and expect the winning bid to be around Yu Darvish type numbers. However, something just screams at me that Tanaka isn’t the same and won’t be the same as Darvish, just a gut feeling. Regardless, teams interested in him could be the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners and others. Some will be able to afford it better than others but I see a team like the Colorado Rockies landing Tanaka. The Rockies pitching situation is well documented and a guy like Tanaka could slide in nicely with Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa. The Rockies will be a surprise serious contender for Tanaka and I have a feeling they could win his rights and sign him.

Paul Jack @PaulJackSports: Los Angeles Dodgers6 years 80 million dollars, Posting fee of 60 million. Is there any team other than the Dodgers that appear to be front runners for Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka?  This guy has been an amazing pitcher overseas.  I’m going to give you his last 7 year totals along with Yu Darvish.
Tanaka – 99-35, 2.30 era, 1.10 whip, 53 complete games, 1238 k’s in 1315 innings with 275 walks.
Darvish – 93-38, 1.99 era, 0.99 whip, 55 complete games, 1250 k’s in 1268 innings with 333 walks.
WOW!!!  That’s pretty darn even numbers.  Even with the juiced ball in Japan this year Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 era.  Like a lot of stars over there he is going to get a huge payday and try out his skills versus the best talent in the world.  Darvish had a posting fee of 51.7 million and got 6 years 60 million so I will say Tanaka gets 6 years, 80 million with 60 million going to his home team in Japan.

Chip Jabaley @jip_chabaley: Japanese superstars are not exactly a brand-new phenomenon to the MLB, but Masahiro Tanaka is only the third such player to amass this level of hype over where he will land. Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (Boston Red Sox) each garnered $51 million posting fees and signed 6-year deals worth $60 million and $52 million, respectively. To clarify, a posting fee is merely the amount a team must pay to earn the right to open up contract talks with the player in question. And with reports of a possible bidding war between the usual suspects, the Yankees and Dodgers, it is certainly possible that Tanaka’s posting fee could sky-rocket into the $100 million range. Teams certainly seem to believe Tanaka is the next Darvish, and his numbers in Japan (2.30 ERA, 8.5 K/9) are eerily similar to those of Darvish at the time of his signing. The downward trend in strikeouts over the past few years is a concern, but not enough that teams are not going to want him. There have been reports of doubts among many clubs as to whether Tanaka will be posted at all, but assuming he is, it will probably come down to the Yankees and the Dodgers. It would be hard to bet against the Yankees coming out on top here; they are desperate enough that they are willing to throw gobs of money away to get some pitching help. New York is where Tanaka will land.

Anthony Bockheim @themoon2400There is no hotter commodity in baseball than a quality starter. If the signing process was clear for Masahiro Tanaka I would quickly choose the New York Yankees as his next club. However, the posting process for the right to negotiate with Japanese players is in flux. In the past the highest post bidder won the right to negotiate. The rules may be changing and the NPB may allow the top two or three bidders to make offers in an effort to give Japanese players more input in their futures. This makes New York less likely in my estimation. Reports also say that the posting bid winner may simply pay the average of the top two bids. This makes little sense to me as Japanese clubs would simply be giving away money. Smaller market MLB clubs will undoubtedly be opposed to either scenario. They would like to see the posting fee become part of the luxury tax. Unfortunately the clock is ticking on a deal and there is a very real possibility Tanaka will stay in Japan. As of today, I foresee him remaining a member of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Gary Marchese @gmarchesej: Where will Masahiro Tanaka sign? This is a tough one because their is so much confusion with the Japan posting system. There was supposed to be a new deal between MLB and Japan. Then it was said that won’t happen and now they say it doesn’t matter. It’s possible he doesn’t sign because he can’t leave Japan. If he does though I say Yankees because they want him bad. The posting fee doesn’t count against luxury tax so they could go up to 100 million. I believe the only competition is Dodgers. They will sign him for 12 mill a yr for 5 years.

Travis Richardson @TravRichard: Most everyone has not heard of Masahiro outside of Japan, but if  you ask Yu Darvish about Tanaka you will probably see tears in his eyes and a poor attempt of trying to cover up a BFF tattoo that he and Tanaka got when they were both in Japan wrecking dudes. Masahiro could quite possibly be just as good as what we have seen from Darvish and there are 5-6 big market teams that are looking to add the starting pitcher for a hefty sum. Unfortunately, I don`t think Masahiro will be coming to America this year. This coming from the Associated Press “Major League Baseball has withdrawn their proposal for a new bidding system in Japan, and it’s still uncertain if Japanese SP Masahiro Tanaka will hit the open market this winter. Owners are concerned that bidding under the old system has raised prices to levels that most clubs can’t compete at. Tanaka won’t be able to sign with an MLB team until he’s had nine years of service without a new agreement.” With the deal falling through the and the MLB not looking to renew it, I don`t think we will see Masahiro come this year. But if he did, I would say pinstripes in New York.

Brandon Jopko @pumpedupjaysThere’s no doubt in my mind that the Yankees are going to make a major play to get Tanaka because the posting fee won’t count against their payroll, which in turn will enable them to try and get under the $189 million dollar luxury tax threshold. That, and the Yankees need starters. With that being said, I am hoping some other team like the Giants or Mariners or the Rockies even get Tanaka so competition in the AL East won’t be so difficult for the Blue Jays. Better yet, it’d be sweet for Toronto to sign the Japanese pitcher.

Marc Keller @mrarmchair: In the case of “Where Masahiro Tanaka will sign,” I think it all depends on how the posting process ends up working out.  Currently, the posting process is teams submit blinding bids, and the highest bid wins exclusive rights to negotiate a contract with the player from Japan.  If a deal is reached, the money that the winning team bid to negotiate goes to the Japanese League team.  Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball of Japan are close to reaching an agreement that will change the current posting system.  According to Sherman, the new system will allow the player to have some input in the process by allowing them to pick who they would want to negotiate with of the top two or three bidders.  If the current posting process remained as is, I think Tanaka will be a New York Yankee.  They are in desperate need of starting pitching help and if they do ultimately pass on resigning second baseman Robinson Cano, they’ll have the cash available to blow every team away by posting the highest bid.  However, if the current process is changed, my dark horse team to land Tanaka is the San Francisco Giants.  Supposedly, the Giants have been keeping a watchful eye on how this all plays out.  They view Tanaka as the best pitcher available who wouldn’t cost them a draft pick.

Chris Moran @HangingSlurves: I’m a little worried about the drop in strikeouts, but I think Tanaka will have success state-side. He has excellent fastball command, and his splitter is dirty. The splitter is a pretty rare pitch. Here’s a few guys that can throw their splitter more than 10% of the time: Hisashi Iwakuma, Hiroki Kuroda, Koji Uehara, Jeff Samardzija, and Dan Haren. Not bad company. His fastball/splitter combo will work pretty well for him. Tanaka doesn’t have the array of breaking pitches or the elite fastball that Yu Darvish does. Nevertheless, as teams saw how well the Darvish investment worked out, Tanaka will likely command a higher posting fee. Expect the usual suspects to be in on the action. The Dodgers, Yankees, Angels, Red Sox and Rangers come to mind, and the Mets might be players as well. I know I’m really going out on a limb, but I’ll say the Yankees outbid everyone else.

Gavin Ewbank @GavinEwbank2013First off, we have to know if Tanaka will even be posted by his team as MLB and the Japan League are still figuring out a set posting system. There is some optimism that a deal can get done, but at the same time, some people believe that Tanaka won’t be posted until next winter. If he doesn’t get posted, I can’t see a scenario in which the Yankees don’t land him. Every indication I’ve gotten this winter has indicated that the Yankees will do everything they possibly can to get Tanaka. They had scouts watching him a lot this past season, and they liked everything about him. The best part about posting for him would be the fact that the posting fee, which is expected to exceed $60 million, would not count against the Yankees’ payroll, thus having no effect on getting under $189 million. To me, it seems like the Yankees are hanging everything this offseason on winning the bid for Tanaka, and I know that nothing is going to get in their way of signing him.

Chris Lacey @aecanada12: For Tanaka he could either sign with the Dodgers or the Yankees. Those two teams have the money it requires to land him. Another thing is that by acquiring him it would be a huge boost to the rotation of both teams. There are some concerns about the health of his arm, but it’s definitely a gamble worth taking.

Adrian Garro @adriangarro: Masahiro Tanaka‘s arrival to the United States and Major League Baseball could be on hold as the posting-fee system for international players goes through some turmoil, but should Nippon Professional Sports and MLB figure out their differences, he’ll still likely be one of this offseason’s biggest signings. Word is that Tanaka would prefer to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers or New York Yankees, and it’s hard to pick someone besides Los Angeles. Their shrewd signing of Hyun-jin Ryu prior to last season turned out to be a wise move (as Ryu finished in the Top 5 for N.L. Rookie of the Year voting).  The probable loss of free agent Ricky Nolasco opens another rotation spot, and even though the Dodgers probably don’t need a pitcher of Tanaka’s talent, he’d fit in nicely alongside Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Ryu – while not having to deal with the intense focus and media attention given to other players in his situation (as Yu Darvish felt with the Texas Rangers a couple of years ago).

Patrick Gilbride @PatrickG42: Masahiro Tanaka will be one of the most sought out pitching free agents this off-season, that is if he is posted by the Golden Eagles to be eligible. Being only 25, he should be able to get a deal possibly more than Yu Darvish received of $60 million over 6 years, but players from Japan have not always transitioned to MLB as well as Darvish. I see many teams being involved for Tanaka with the Chicago Cubs coming through with a big signing. The Cubs are trying to build a core of young talent that will be able to contend in a year or two, and Tanaka fits that bill.

Ryan Walton @RyanWaltonMLB: When it comes down to it in there are only a handful of clubs that can afford to spend what the posting fee will be just to talk to Tanaka. The posting fee to sign a player is paid up front just to win the rights to have a conversation with a player and then the contract is offered. With Tanaka the posting fee is reportedly going to exceed $75 million which is $20 million more than the nearly $52 million for Yu Darvish. If the fee is above that figure it will be higher than the 2013 opening day payroll of at least eight teams. Look for the bidding to come down to these three teams: Dodgers, Yankees, and Cubs. The Dodgers and Yankees organizations have both publicly talked about scouting Tanaka heavily. When all is said and done Tanaka will wear pinstripes. The Yankees are desperate for arms with a rotation that has scuffled. If the Yankees bring back Hiroki Kuroda  it would make for an interesting pairing.

Scott Eastment @SportsGeek02: Masahiro Tanaka is one of the more intriguing free agents of this MLB off-season as he will likely require a hefty posting fee from whoever wants to sign him. Physically, at 6’2” and 205 pounds, Tanaka is around average; however his delivery is essentially effortless despite a few moving parts that we have come to be accustomed to from Japanese pitchers. The power in his legs combined with his delivery makes him a minimal injury concern for teams, however for a 25 year old his arm has a lot of miles on it. He has multiple plus pitches and should provide a durable number 1 or 2 starter for his team for a decade or so. In terms of where he ends up, I have an unfortunate feeling it is going to be the usual players like the Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Red Sox, Rangers, Cubs, and Astros. Wait, what? Did I just say Astros? I sure did; new owner Jim Crane has made it clear that money is not an issue in Houston and he wants the rest of the league and its players to take notice that the team’s cheque book is open. Proof is in the pudding as they reportedly were deep in the running for Jose Dariel Abreu, offering a reported $60 million. My gut tells me an American League East team will be the landing spot for Tanaka, however I am going to say that the newly overshadowed Los Angeles Angels will ultimately sign the Japanese phenom.

Clayton Richer @MLBHotCorner: Tanaka will end up in the major leagues this season even with the posting issues between the two leagues. There is zero chance the Nippon Professional Baseball League squander their cash cow with the MLB and they will ultimately reach an agreement as they are at the mercy of the MLB. All signs point to Tanaka ending up with the “Evil Empire” in New York with rumors that the Yankees are prepared to break the bank for his services. The Mets, Dodgers, Red Sox and Mariners will also be involved in the bidding process however my sleeper pick is the Houston Astros. The Astros have money to spend and desperately need to acquire premier players to better there roster and prove to their frustrated fan base that they are committed to winning.




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Clayton Richer
About the Author

Clayton Richer is an MLB scribe from north of the border with a slight bias for the Toronto Blue Jays. Clayton has also been the shop-keeper at Baseball Hot Corner since the sites inception in 2012. Follow and interact with Clayton on Twitter @MLBHotCorner or @ClaytonRicher

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