By Jack McNeil
Masahiro Tanaka, the right-handed Japanese professional baseball player, is entering American baseball. The 25-year old is in the midst of a bidding war, catching the attention of MLB ball clubs.
According to Newsday and The New York Daily News, the Yanks were among the first teams to contact Tanaka, but no offer has been made as of yet. The Yankees have an obvious need for Tanaka, and after hitting the luxury tax, they no longer have an excuse not to exhaust all options for their rotation. The Boston Red Sox have also been mentioned as a team of interest, but there haven’t been any links as of yet to the team and Tanaka. Fans argue Boston would have one of the best rotations in baseball if they signed Tanaka, but the team has hinted at trading a starter, so adding one may not be in the cards.
Down in Texas, fans are rattled by the idea of adding Tanaka to compete for the 2014 World Championship, which seems like a realistic goal after adding Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo. In Anthony Andro’s piece on Fox Sports Southwest, he has Rangers co-owner Bob Simpson’s thoughts on Tanaka in Arlington. “We’re probably comfortable where we are in terms of financial commitments. Tanaka would be a tough thing. We aggressively went afterYu (Darvish). I guess I should never say never but at the moment we’re more interested in rounding out our team”. One thing is certain in Texas, not winning is not an option after two underwelming seasons and a 2011 WS that will haunt fans forever.
In the National League, Kevin Towers, the Arizona Diamondback’s GM, has allowed his agressive colors to show this offseason by shipping away top prospects in order to win now. Some argue this is the perfect fit for both parties, as Tanaka could benefit from pitching in the NL West with larger parks and no DH, while the Diamondbacks need a young ace moving forward in a tight division. The ever-lasting question will be, Is Tanaka interested in playing for teams outside of the 4 big markets(L.A, Boston, New York, and Chicago).
Speaking of Chicago, the Cubs are “In” on Tanaka as well. According to Marc Carig of Newsday, the main players for Tanaka’s services are the Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers, and Cubs. For the first time in the Hoyer-Epstein era, Chicago is in the midst of a top free agent battle. Jesse Crain and Tanaka are the club’s remaining targets, and with the payroll flexibility, quiet offseason, and need for pitching long-term, the Cubs may be the best fit of all teams.
With the Tanaka being available, teams will be coming out of the woodwork to surprise fans, writers, and even Tanaka. The Washington Nationals, according to Andrew Rickli, who appeared on TheMLBTalk101 to dicsuss the matter, talked to a Nationals executive who likened the idea of Tanaka being posted for Washington. That’s right, don’t count the Nats out on Tanaka, as they may not be comfortable with Detwiler moving forward. The Los Angeles Dodgers have also been linked to Tanaka mainly because they have the biggest payroll in the Majors and the demographics out west in addition to the distance from Japan to L.A. While the Dodgers have a rotation full, last year showed fans that you can never have enough arms. Ever.
No one is wondering what teams are willing to give the 20 million posting fee. We all wonder what city Tanaka wants to play in, and could the dollar amount change his mind completely? The four big markets seem to be in play, but would Tanaka go to Arizona now that he has the freedom to choose?