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By far the most exciting thing happening this baseball offseason, besides the whole Cano thing, is who will get potential superstar pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
SO, we can assume the same major players are in for Tanaka: the Yankees, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Rangers, Mariners, and Dodgers… right? Yes, but with the new MLB posting system, at $20 million to post, any team can jump in for a shot at MLB’s new heartthrob. Some high level baseball execs even have signs pointing some unexpected teams like Oakland or Houston as possible bidders. Oakland loves their big international signings and Houston has more than enough money to afford the likes of Tanaka. But what makes Tanaka so special. Why are teams seemingly willing to pay more than $100 million to sign a guy who’s never thrown a pitch in the big leagues? Lets take a closer look.
Tanaka is 25 years old right now with incredible numbers. With a WHIP under 1, he is easily the best pitcher in Japan. However, the Nippon Professional Baseball League is regarded as a Triple-A caliber league at best. And as baseball fans know, there have been many players who were stars in Japan but big flops in MLB, i.e. Kosuke Fukudome, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Kaz Matsui, and Hiroyuki Nakajima. One notable Japanese pitcher to come by in recent years is Yu Darvish. He has excelled in the bigs and commanded around the same amounts of money that Tanaka will be sure to get. Here are his numbers while he was still pitching in Japan.
Darvish had a similar ERA and WHIP to Tanaka when he was signed. Darvish was posted at $51.7 million with his contract at 6 years, $60 million; bringing his total contract to worth over $100 million. Darvish has parlayed that into 2 All-Star appearances and a Strikeouts Champion.
Also remember that 4 of Darvish’s 2013 losses were 1-0 losses. Two against Oakland. Although he gave up almost double the HRs in his sophomore year as he did his rookie season, he improved in most statistical pitching categories.
Lets take a look at another similar MLB signing, that of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Here are his NPB numbers.
Again, his numbers were incredibly similar to those of Darvish and Tanaka, WHIP under 1 and an extremely low ERA. Matsuzaka was posted for $51,111,111.11 and signed a contract of 6 years, $52 million with the Boston Red Sox. Another contract worth over $100 million. However, with the exception of one incredible year, Matsuzaka was unable to play up to the expectations of MLB, and at best, has potential to be a number 5 starter.
Taking all that into consideration, Tanaka is still a huge gamble. Teams need to negotiate carefully when given the chance and hope Tanaka wants to be a part of your teams. For $20 million posting, this truly is wide open. However it goes, be sure to grab a bag of popcorn and a soda, this sweepstakes is sure to be interesting.
***All charts and statistics taken from Baseball Reference***