Finally a resolution. It took a month and 24 days, but finally after months of waiting, Japanese superstar Masahiro Tanaka is set to come to Major League Baseball. Tanaka of course put together one of the better seasons in the Nippon Pro Baseball history pitching 212.0 innings compiling a 1.27 ERA with a 5.72 K/BB rate. He has set himself up for a gigantic paycheck, one that could potentially challenge Zack Greinke for the highest “free agent” contract ever handed out to a right handed pitcher.
The posting system has been revamped to essentially make it free agency with a 20 million dollar tax on whatever you pay to the posted payer. It should be interesting to see how much the Dodgers want Tanaka, after having one of the better seasons in the club’s history, winning the NL West by double digits despite only getting half a year of Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, and Matt Kemp, missing Zack Greinke, not having a resemblance of a #5 starter for most of the year, employing Brandon League, Matt Guerrier, Carlos Marmol, and Edinson Volquez at various points of the year. The club was dominant last season and there’s no question a Tanaka addition would make the Dodgers a lot better. However, how much do they really want him? Enough to beat a Cubs front office who “will not be outbid“, or a Yankees organization who has stated the 189 million dollar tax threshold was a farce, we’ll see.
I’m excited to see how Tanaka fares in the U.S. wherever he signs. There has to be some concern with him knowing how many pitches he threw in the NPB playoffs that allowed his team, the Rakuten Eagles to win the league championship. Other questions include his 91 MPH flat fastball which has been described by some scouts as “very hittable”. Tanaka also tore his pectoral muscle throwing a pitch in 2010. However, there is much to like as he has been credited with what has been described as the “best splitter on the planet”. He also reportedly has a slider that is at least above average, potentially plus. His control is incredible as evidenced by his BB rates in the mid to low 1.00’s in each of the past 3 seasons.
Personally i’ve gotten more excited on Tanaka recently, especially realizing there is a very real possibility Zack Greinke opts out of his deal in the winter of 2015. I’d like to see Tanaka signed, injecting a top 10 prospect into the system and having insurance on the farm would be nice. That being said, if the bidding comes within 30 million of Greinke’s deal they should back out, but having a pitcher who can potentially be a #2 starter on a team with 2 aces (Kershaw, Greinke), and a high end #3 (Ryu), and a potential #5 (Dan Haren) with Ross Stripling and Zach Lee waiting in the farm for the inevitable injury. That’s a REALLY good place to be in.