The Masahiro Tanaka posting drama could threaten my once annual off-day of the year …
Despite confused reports to the contrary last week, the Rakuten Golden Eagles remain publicly undecided on whether they will make their 25-year-old ace available to MLB teams for a posting price of $20 million. That could change this week, according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler, who reports that a decision could finally be revealed on Tuesday or Wednesday (Christmas Eve or Christmas Day). Because of various travel and appearance commitments for Tanaka, the expectation is that he’ll meet with Rakuten on those days to finalize a decision, one way or the other, and word will then come out.
For his part, Tanaka has publicly expressed a desire to come to the States to pitch in MLB now. Rakuten controls his rights through the 2015 season, and doesn’t have to honor his request. The team could elect instead to keep Tanaka, increasing his salary to try and soften what would be understandable frustration at missing out on a nine-figure payday. Then, Rakuten could try to post Tanaka next offseason, hoping that his performance/health over the 2014 season would still dictate the $20 million maximum posting fee.
I’m still betting Tanaka is ultimately posted, and, if he is, the market for free agent starting pitchers will start to clarify a bit. Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Ervin Santana remain the three biggest names on the market, but teams have been in a holding pattern on them, pending the Tanaka outcome. Further, possible trade targets like David Price and Jeff Samardzija are also up in the air during the pendency of the Tanaka stuff.
The Cubs are generally accepted as one of the leading suitors for Tanaka, though the legitimacy of the Cubs’ pursuit – given the financial situation – is debated by many. There’s a part of me that wants to see Tanaka posted solely so we can find out if the Cubs are able to put their money where (we believe) their mouth is.