About a week ago I wrote that Japanese pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka would not be posted by his Japanese team. This turned out to be completely untrue (in my defense, there were people who do this for a living reporting that as well).
There is no doubt that the Yankees, and many other teams, will be willing to give the Rakutan Golden Eagles the required $20 million posting fee to negotiate with Tanaka, the question for me is what kind of deal would it take to land him?
Tanaka is going to be expensive; very expensive. Pitching is at a premium in baseball and he is probably the most coveted pitcher on the market this off season. With postion players like Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo commanding $130 million plus in free agency this winter I can only imagine what Tanaka could be coming to America for. The Yankees will undoubtedly make a competitive offer, but how far will general manager Brian Cashman and ownership be willing to go to secure his services?
The Yankees have all but ensured that they will not be underneath the $189 million luxury tax threshold for the coming season, which was a stated goal of the organization, so they should not be limited in that way. What I could see limiting the Yankees here is the past. The Yankees have been burned twice signing Japanese pitchers. Both Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa turned out to be complete disasters when they arrived in the States. Neither Igawa nor Irabu came in as touted as Tanaka, however.
It can not be ignored that one of the most popular Yankees in recent memory was Japanese outfielder, and 2009 World Series MVP, Hideki Matsui, who was terrific for the Yankees over his tenure in the Bronx. So not all of the players who have come over from Japan to play for the Yanks have been busts.
The deal I see securing the rights to Tanaka would be in the ballpark of 7 years for roughly 18-19 million a year. Putting the total deal at $125-$145 million over that stretch. I would not be shocked if the Yankees were the one’s landing his services if that is the case. However, just as in the case of Robinson Cano, sometimes a team will put forth a contract offer so extravagant that no one sees it coming. In the event that happens the Yankees would be wise to not get into a bidding war, just as they were wise to not pay the ridiculous sum that the Mariners spent on Cano.
Feel free to tell me what you think it’ll take to acquire Masahiro Tanaka, or why you think I’m way off on this, in the comments.