Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hot Stove Update: Tanaka Posted

Just as the Hot Stove seemed to have died down to a bed of barely warm coals, the Japanese League Rakuten Golden Eagles announced that they will indeed post RHP Masahiro Tanaka making him available to come to the USA to play baseball.  Tanaka, just for a quick review, is 25 years old and ran up some pretty ridiculous numbers last year going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in the Japanese Pacific League.

His impending transfer to MLB is comparable to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish in past years, but the process is different in his case due to MLB flexing it's muscle and forcing a revised process onto the Japanese teams.  Whereas teams in the past had to submit sealed posting bids for the right to negotiate exclusively with the player, in Tanaka's case, the maximum posting bid is $20 M which buys the team the right to negotiate amongst other teams posting the maximum amount with the player.  The effect of this is to shift the leverage from the posting team in Japan to the player.  Whereas the Red Sox and Rangers paid very large posting fees for "Dice K" and Darvish respectively, the players ultimately signed relatively small contracts because they could only negotiate with one team.  Since the posting fee of $20 M is relatively small in comparison to his overall cost, and because only the team that ultimately signs him actually loses the $20 M, it is expected that multiple teams will submit the maximum posting fee.

 With pretty much all of the heavy hitters in the baseball market expected to be involved in the bidding, Tanaka is not going to come cheaply.  Initial speculation has his expected contract in the $100 M range.  Given what we have seen so far this offseason, I think it will probably be higher than that.  Just the fact that the signing of FA pitchers has come to a virtual halt tells you that the market for Tanaka is probably already overheated.  All of the FA pitchers on the market come with major baggage, loss of draft pick, history of injury, history of inconsistent performance.  Tanaka is now THE premier pitcher available on the market.  My guess is $100 M will merely be the opening bid.  A final number of $200 M would not shock me in the slightest.

The burning questions for Giants fans is, should the Giants enter the bidding and will the Giants enter the bidding?    As for the posting fee, there is virtually no risk involved in that since the money does not get paid out unless the player is actually signed.  As for whether there is any point in doing that, probably not.  Sabes already said that the Giants have "moved on" from Tanaka and has also said they are not comfortable adding any more large, longterm commitments than they already have.  In short, the Giants are not going to be signing anyone to a $100 M contract let alone what it is likely to cost to sign Tanaka.

Much of Giants fans angst over the situation is undoubtedly linked to the fear that the Dodgers will do what the Dodgers have been doing under their new ownership and blow everyone else out of the water, sign Tanaka to give them a super-rotation while the Giants sit on their hands up north.  That may well happen and if that is what the Dodgers want to do, probably what WILL happen.  The problem is, if that is what the Dodgers WANT to do, having the Giants involved in the bidding will not stop it from happening.  Simply put, if the Dodgers have decided they want Tanaka, they will not be outbid, period!

Personally, I am not convinced this is what the Dodgers want to do, but we'll see.  The Yankees also appear to be a natural fit while the Rangers appear to be interested and have the Darvish history to back them up.  The Chicago Cubs are rumored to be ready to wage war for Tanaka.  The D'Backs seem to be making some noise on the Tanaka front but if they have the financial resources to sign him, it will be the final destruction of the entire concept of a small market team and of any financial constraints on baseball salaries whatsoever.

In summary, Masahiro Tanaka will likely be a solid addition to any MLB pitching staff.  He will not be an undervalued commodity, if such a concept is even relevant anymore.  I would love to see Tanaka pitching in a Giants uniform next season.  I do not expect to see that happen!


  1. Go Yankees ! Or Cubs ! It is unfortunate that the Dodgers seem to have kept a spot in their rotation open for Tanaka.

    And it's okay that the Giants are okay with an OK starting rotation. Somebody's got to exercise some fiscal restraint. Offering a contract larger than Matt Cain's to a guy who's never pitched in an MLB game seems criminal.

    1. Just want to add that perhaps New York is not the best place for Tanaka. What's his personality? Is he ready for Broadway? Or Hollywood?

      The ballpark in NY may not be the best place for him to break in, given the short porch in left. Wrigley doesn't exactly play fair either.

      Do you folks think factors like these enter into the equation or is it just about the most money offered? Playing home games at Chavez Ravine with roadies to SF and SD would seem pretty favorable.

    2. Kuroda has been successful with the Yankees. Darvish has been successful with the Rangers. It will come down to money.

    3. I read that Tanaka has more of an outgoing personality than Darvish and that Tanaka's wife is a Japanese pop singing star, so the big stage would not figure to deter him. Also, his best pitch is supposedly the split finger and he has given up very few homers in Japan (despite some bandbox stadia there) so I don't think the configurations of New Yankee Stadium would scare him off. I think it comes down to the $$$... just like most of the MLB free agents.

    4. I wonder if the $$$ was equal among the bidders, would the Yankees have a slight edge with fellow countrymen Kuroda and Ichiro on the team.


    5. I don't know, LG. These Japanese dudes seem to me to be supremely self confident and not at all afraid to make their way as pioneers. I'm not so sure that having other Japanese players already on a team might be a negative for him.

  2. Belated Merry Christmas Dr.B;
    Let everyone else in on this crap shoot.
    Let's save our cash (Giants) if we need a mid season replacement.
    Frankly, I say stay the course.

    Richard in Winnipeg

    1. Hi Richard. I'm putting my early money on James Shields at the trade deadline.

  3. Does this new posting system favor the reckless even more than before?

    Second question. Is there a deal between Rakuten and Tanaka? I mean, does $20 million really cover losing Tanaka for many year?

    1. No word of a deal with Tanaka and Rakuten.

      In the past, the competition was for the posting fee with the player at a negotiating disadvantage because he only had two options, sign with the team that won the posting derby or stay in Japan. The posting fee was somewhat competitive, but the bids were secret so teams did not know what they were bidding against.

      Now, the player and his agent can gin up a bidding war and even try to get teams to bid against themselves. I do think the total expenditure will be higher under the new system.