Masahiro Tanaka is labeled as a ‘rock star’ in Japan and Ma-kun is going on a tour of Major League Baseball teams. Tanaka will reportedly meet with the Cubs this week as part of his stop in Chicago that is likely to include a visit on the South Side with the White Sox.
The Cubs are expected to be “all in” on Tanaka even to the point David Kaplan reported prior to the New Year that the Cubs would not be outbid for his services. The list of teams thought to be “all in” on Tanaka is a mile-long, and it could increase if Ken Rosenthal’s sources are correct about the way the release fee will be paid.
As part of the new posting system Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball agreed to in December, the NPB club that makes one of their players available to sign with a Major League team cannot exceed a $20 million release fee. So any MLB team, under the new system, willing to pay the max release fee can negotiate with the player but would only be responsible to pay the Japanese team the posting fee if they signed the player.
According to Ken Rosenthal, the $20 million posting fee will be split into two payments of $13 million and $7 million. Rosenthal explained the team that signs Tanaka will have to pay Rakuten $13 million during the first year of his contract and $7 million in the second year. Rosenthal added the “idea behind the split payment is to allow more teams the realistic opportunity to bid for Tanaka, or any other Japanese player who is posted.”
The new wrinkle in the posting system would seem to open the door to any team willing to sign Tanaka to the $100-plus million contract he should sign in the next 16 days.
The Yankees, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Angels and Mariners are thought to be the Cubs biggest competition for Masahiro Tanaka. But don’t count out the Tigers, Red Sox and now the White Sox. Dave Dombrowski told Jon Paul Morosi that the Tigers’ roster is “pretty well set” but the Tigers’ GM would “not rule out further upgrades.”
The New York media is pressing Hal Steinbrenner to put his money where his mouth is and sign Masahiro Tanaka … no matter the cost and what the signing would mean to the Yankees financial picture moving forward. Even with all of the money the Yankees have spent this winter ($283 million) with the signings of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees are not seen as a championship caliber team. According to a report from Ian O’Connor, the Yankees “will be heavily involved with Tanaka, very aggressive and at the top of the market, but won’t get reckless and stupid.” O’Connor explained the Yankees are willing to go over $100 million to sign Tanaka, “but will overpay him only so much.”
Meanwhile in Anaheim, the Angels would like to sign Masahiro Tanaka but they are up against the $189 million luxury tax as well and have a lot of money promised to Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, plus what figures to be a record-breaking extension to Mike Trout. Alden Gonzalez broke down why the Angels should and should not sign Tanaka. Jerry Dipoto, the Halos’ GM, likes Tanaka and would like to sign him to fill a void in their rotation.
The Diamondbacks are preparing for “a serious run” at Masahiro Tanaka according to Steve Gilbert. Kevin Towers wants to add a top of the rotation starter and has interest in Matt Garza if he cannot sign Tanaka. Gilbert reported the D-Backs have informed Casey Close “they should be considered serious players for him.”
The Cubs will make their pitch to Masahiro Tanaka according to Patrick Mooney and will have to sell him on pitching for the Cubs. Mooney reported his sources indicated “Tanaka’s camp hopes to keep the process confidential.” But at this point, that is highly unlikely as the Tanaka derby will continue to make headlines until he signs a contract.
Masahiro Tanaka and Yu Darvish
Badler explained, in his must read report, what the pitchers “have in common is they both spent their entire careers in Nippon Professional Baseball, where they were the best pitchers in Japan before leaving for Major League Baseball at age 25.”
Darvish projected as a number one when he left Japan and has lived up to expectations so far. Tanaka projects as a top of the rotation starter that “should be one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues this season.” Badler took the time to compare Tanaka with where Darvish was when he left Japan and pointed out which pitcher has the advantage in each category.
As for overall performance, Badler thinks Tanaka and Darvish are pretty even. Darvish has the better fastball, curveball and slider of the two while Tanaka’s splitter has been graded as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale and one NL scout that Badler spoke to called it “a devastating pitch, like John Smoltz.” Tanaka has better command and control than Darvish. Badler gave the advantage to Darvish in the delivery/physical category. Badler added both pitchers are “good athletes who are able to repeat their deliveries with good balance and coordination.” Where Darvish is 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Tanaka is 6-foot-2, 205 pounds and is “built more along the lines of Yovani Gallardo or Kyle Lohse.”
Other News, Notes and Rumors
Ken Rosenthal reported Ubaldo Jimenez’s agents are telling clubs “he still expects to sign a multi-year deal at $14 million-plus annually.”
Jim Bowden made ten bold predictions for the remainder of the off-season on Tuesday. Bowden thinks the Yankees and Angels will go over the luxury tax threshold. Jeff Samardzija and David Price will not be traded, but will be dealt in July. And Masahiro Tanaka will sign with the Yankees for six years and $120 million.