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masahiro tanakaAs discussed earlier today, there is a report floating out there that 25-year-old Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka – for all intents and purposes, a free agent – is down to three finalists for his very desirable services: the Yankees, the Dodgers, and the Angels. Each makes sense for its own reasons, not the least of which is the geographic location. New York is the grandest stage, and Los Angeles is a hell of a nice place to live and work (for some folks).

The Yankees desperately need top-level starting pitching if they’re going to turn things around from last year (hell, tread water even). Financially, you can never count them out. From Tanaka’s perspective: if you were a foreign player coming to the United States, wouldn’t you strongly consider joining the creme de la creme, historically speaking?

The Dodgers don’t desperately need anything, but ever since new ownership took over – and inked a perversely large TV deal – no luxury has been too luxurious. On paper, they look like the best team in baseball, and project to be competitive every year of Tanaka’s expected deal.

The Angels, like the Yankees, need starting pitching as much as any theoretical contender, and need to capture some of the competitive years they have in the near-term with guys like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson, and Jered Weaver under expensive control. Like the Dodgers, the Angels have freshly cashed in on the huge TV market, so there’s plenty of money there. They play in an area Tanaka may want to be, and he could be their young ace.

So, as favorites or finalists, the three make sense. Should we close the book then? Shut down the Obsessive Watch?

Well, maybe. I’m not going to until he signs, but, you know, this could be the turning point. Still, I’m a cynical dude, and I’d like to focus for a moment solely on the potential problems with each of those teams as landing spots.

New York Yankees – The need is there and the money is there, so there’s no real problem here … unless the Yankees make good on a long-standing plan to get under a $189 million payroll in 2014 in order to reset their luxury tax rate going forward (as well as their revenue sharing dollars). At present, per Joel Sherman’s calculations, the Yankees are at $151.5 million for 2014, but that doesn’t include the Brian Roberts deal (just finalized today, and worth as much as $4.6 million against the luxury tax, if he reaches certain incentives), any arbitration guys, the $11ish million for insurance/pensions, any money for in-season trades or call-ups, or the pre-arb guys on the 40-man roster. Add all that in and the Yankees are pushing right up against $189 million as it is.

In other words, the Alex Rodriguez suspension made the luxury tax plan possible, but only if the Yankees add very little the rest of this offseason – and certainly not if they sign Tanaka. Do the Yankees add a lesser arm and otherwise stand pat, fulfilling the luxury tax plan? Or do they decide that getting back to the playoffs in 2014 is more important, and essentially admit to a two-year-long mistake?

It’s enough to at least make you wonder about the Yankees’ involvement.

Los Angeles Dodgers – For every report that the Dodgers will throw around their financial muscle to get Tanaka, there are credible local reports (plural) that the Dodgers are simply not prioritizing him. The team has seven legitimate starting pitchers, three of whom are ace level or just near it. Maybe Tanaka doesn’t want to play fourth fiddle, or maybe the Dodgers don’t want to have a $250 million payroll for the next ten years. Clayton Kershaw’s free agency looms.

The California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Near Disneyland – Similar to the Yankees’ issue, the question is the luxury tax cap. Per Ken Rosenthal’s most recent thoughts on the issue, the Angels have just $13 to $15 million left under $189 million going into 2014, so fitting Tanaka in would be difficult. And, for future planning purposes, there’s the matter of Mike Trout’s soon-to-be exploding cost. Worse, they’re going to have a couple dead contracts in Pujols and Hamilton within a couple years, and those dead contracts will pinch payroll for a bit. If Tanaka costs more than, say, $20 million in AAV, and if the Angels plan to extend Trout, they could have nearly $120 million annually invested in just five players (Tanaka, Trout, Pujols, Hamilton, Weaver) through the 2016 season, and $100 million in just four players for 2017. The question is whether they care. If they want to stay competitive for that run and then thereafter, they’d likely have to go over the luxury tax cap, and stay over it – incurring increasing tax and revenue-sharing penalties in the process.

  • ryan

    “The California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Near Disneyland” that was beautiful

    • http://www.facebook.com/cubman87 cubman87

      +1!!!!

    • CubbieBubba

      indeed!

  • fortyonenorth

    …”nice place to live…”

    I lived in LA. Summers are hot, dry, crowded, and dirty. To each his own, but I wouldn’t rate it high on favorite places to live.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Mine, either. If I’m heading out that way, give me San Diego any day of the week.

    • Voice of Reason

      He’ll be in L.A. for about 82 days each year. The other some 82 nights he’ll be in other major league baseball cities.

      The rest of the time he’ll be in his own bed in Japan.

      He could get a private plane to take him to a sweet place to live in San Diego after each home game.

      You guys act like Tanaka will be working a ton of overtime just to put food on the table. It’s a totally different life style when you’re raking in $25 million bucks a year.

      • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

        With that much money any place becomes Xanadu.

        • Assman22

          Tanaka won’t get anywhere near that AAV from what I’ve heard…at least not in his first contract…the “three finalists” rumor appears to be just that…have yet to receive confirmation of this…only heard he’s far from making a decision, still weighing all options, and has yet to receive a BAFO from any team…

          • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

            You don’t think someone will go into the 20M AAV to land him?

            • Scotti

              He appears to have been referencing the $25 per referenced in this thread.

              • Assman22

                Long story short…Tanaka is no Darvish…to land $25 AAV, one must dominate consistently for years a la Felix and Ver…Darvish has yet to accomplish this, much less Tanaka…even $20 AAV is silly but possible…he’s the top international FA in a weak FA class and the jury is still out on how his stuff translates to MLB…he’s a #2 SP with ace potential until proven otherwise(in my opinion)…FWIW still hearing Seattle will be the “silly offer”…

  • BenW

    Nicely done Brett. When I saw “sources” saying those were the only 3 teams, it made me wonder just how accurate they are. I’d be shocked if both the Cubs and Mariners don’t have at least some shot to land him.

    The Angels would be the most shocking to me. Even with him, I could see a 4th place finish in that division unless Pujols and Hamilton revert back to 2 years ago.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      It’s kind of a lazy rumor to say that LAA, LAD, NYY are the finalist… of course they are. They are three of the biggest spenders so obviously going after Tanaka makes sense but to call them the only finalist is just easy, lazy thinking. I’m not putting much stock in that report, you could say this about any big name free agent. Until he starts visiting teams there really aren’t solid finalists, and I expect he will visit plenty of places. As always this will come down to who offers the best contract.

      • BenW

        Yep, exactly. And unless he really does take less money to be on a team, I actually think these 3 are less likely than some other options (given luxury tax implications).

      • When The Musics Over

        Would it be a lazy rumor if the Cubs were one of the teams? Sounds sorta like a backwards selection bias to me. Unless the Cubs are part of the group, the sample must be in error. I’m kinda joking here, but I get the feeling that emotion is going to generate this sentiment unless the Cubs are a named team in any article.

        • Blackhawks1963

          You hit the nail on the head.

          • willis

            Yeah that’s right on. If it were the Cubs “rumored” to be in the final three, this place (and all cubs sites) would be going bananas putting all their stock in it. Because the cubs aren’t in the final three according to this report, it’s “lazy” and not worthy of putting anything into it.

        • mjhurdle

          “Would it be a lazy rumor if the Cubs were one of the teams?”

          yes it would.

          glad we put that to rest.

          • When The Musics Over

            Can you please explain why? What wouldn’t be lazy. If 10 teams were named? 15 teams? I don’t understand why everyone is so sure it’s a lazy rumor. Isn’t there a decent chance that those three teams really are the finalist?

            • hansman

              Much like the Passan piece it’s just naming 3 big market teams that would really like him.

              Every time a big name free agent is around a few of the big market teams get attached to him and half the time they don’t sign with any of those teams they were attached to.

              • When The Musics Over

                It definitely might be lazy, but there’s definitely decent probability that those are the 3 teams the dude indeed chose. I honestly don’t know how anyone is so sure in this instance. And they could very well be his finalists today, and he could change his mind 5 days from now as new information comes in, changing his finalist list. People change their minds all the time.

        • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

          Yes naming teams that have been discussed as having major interest for months now without any other reports is easy lazy rumor mongering.

          I could say “Cubs have a strong chance to sign Tanaka” and it’s neither true or false just lazy baiting. But if you need to continue finding any reasons to complain I’m glad I help you to achieve your goal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cubman87 cubman87

    Aw man, That is awesome. I hope he doesn’t sign with any of them :) Go CUBS!!!

  • TSB

    Maybe if he gets a taste for kielbasa or deep dish pizza he’ll give Chicago a chance. If not, the West Coast weather, demographics, and location will be too much to refuse.

  • NorthSideIrish

    Danny Ecker ‏@DannyEcker 2m
    Say hello to Clark, the Cubs’ first official mascot: pic.twitter.com/DohREnxtcP

    Not really my thing, but I’m sure my daughter will want to High 5 every time she sees him…

    • Scotti

      I hope the FO brass brought Clark with to seal the deal with Tanaka…

  • Fastball

    He might have aspirations to learn how to surf on his off days or ride a jet ski to Catalina. He is 25 and he will be living in Candy Land. He and his entourage will have a bunch of different places to establish his compound and let the good times roll. At least for his entourage. I am sure that show was a hit in Japan. That poor boy has probably been dreaming about living large in LA since he was 17 or 18. Soon he will be able to do it for real.

    • Blackhawks1963

      And Mrs Tanaka has major ambition of working for a broadcast news organization or media company in talk shows. Big advantage NY and LA. Especially since each city has Japanese television media outlets.

  • Blackhawks1963

    What has become ridiculous really is that Cub fans are looking for any sliver of interpretation or rumor to validate hope that Tanaka will consider the Cubs.

    It’s goofy really. Some get all ticked off if somebody like me says that there is zero chance Tanaka comes to Chicago. It’s splitting hairs…sure, until Tanaka officially rules out teams or ultimately signs a contract the “hope” always exists that he becomes a Cub. But my goodness.

    • Boogens

      You’ve said repeatedly that it’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll sign with the Yankees. I hope he signs with anybody else but the Yankees so I can see all the grief that you’ll get. It’ll be fun since you’ve been negative about it the whole time and you’re so certain it’s in the bag for the Yankees.

  • Fastball

    I think the Asian Fan Base in LA has to be something he likes very much. He will be one of many rock stars in LA. But definitely a huge one with very large Asian population in LA.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      There is no such thing as an “Asian fanbase”: that would be like a “European fanbase.” Now, some Americans of Japanese descent might care: but most of them are many generations removed from being Japanese. They would have no more interest in a Japanese pitcher than I would have in a German or Irish one.

      Descendants of other Asian populations won’t care: indeed, many of them have inherited grudges against the Japanese from grandparents and greatgrandparents. At this point, most of the real animosity is gone: but Tanaka will be just another baseball player to them.

      • ClevelandCubsFan

        Yes.

        • Scotti

          Actually, no. This just doesn’t hold truth in reality. In reality jerseys, Bobble Heads, what have you, of Japanese players all do well with Asian American and, of course, specifically Japanese American, fans.

          In fact, the very existance of Asian neighborhoods puts the lie to the notion that there is no tie. Yes, it’s true that many of the old Polish, German, Irish, etc. neighborhoods of our great cities are all being phased out but they are phased out with more recent groups (including hispanic of varied nationalities and more recent European groups–the same neighborhoods that used to speak Polish or German now speak Spanish or some other, more recent, language). Asian immigration still occurs in significant quantity–my wife is an engineering recruiter–to keep their neighborhoods, and cultural identity, alive.

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  • Fastball

    I never had any expectations we would sign him. So I am therefore not remotely bummed about it. There for a minute there was an opportunity to be shocked out of this world. I have a shoe box full of winning lottery tickets stashed in the closet that they wife doesn’t know about as well.

    • willis

      I think maybe way back when, I thought it coulld be a possibility. But with the franchise in the state that it is at the major league level, and the amount of teams getting involved that have more coin and actually try to put a winning product on the field, I knew there was no way. So yeah, like you, whatever, not bummed.

  • Mr Gonzo

    While money talks, Tanaka’s payday, no matter from whom it comes, will be so significantly larger than he’s ever had, that I don’t see a few $MIL$ making a difference. Especially if he has his heart set on a geographical location (LA’s sun, NY’s glamour). Not even a heated toilet seat made of gold and unicorn ivory.

    Is it too early to start talking about who might get posted next year?!

  • Patrick W.

    A small point about the Yankees and the luxury tax.

    Let’s run the numbers if the Yankees decide to get below the rate, and reset, then go back to spending for the next 5 years. I just ran some simple numbers for the payroll going forward for example sake:

    2014: $189M payroll, no tax
    2015: $225M payroll, 17.5% tax = $39.4M
    2016: $250M payroll, 30.0% tax = $75.0M
    2017: $250M payroll, 40.0% tax = $100M
    2018: $250M payroll, 50.0% tax = $125M

    That’s $1.16B payroll + $339M tax = $1.5B payroll total

    Now, what if they decide to say screw it, we’re the GD Yankees and keep that spending going:

    2014: $225M payroll, 50.0% tax = $112.5M
    2015: $250M payroll, 50.0% tax = $125M
    2016: $250M payroll, 50.0% tax = $125M
    2017: $250M payroll, 50.0% tax = $125M
    2018: $250M payroll, 50.0% tax = $125M

    That’s $1.2B payroll + $582M tax = $1.8B payroll total

    So that’s a $300M savings over 5 years, or $60M per year.

    The question is, would tanking (by their standards) 2014 cost them more than $300M, assuming they could compete by immediately increasing their payroll? Plus, if they had a 5 year plan, they planned on paying 40% tax rate on their payroll anyway, before the 4th time and above tax increased to 50% in the new CBA.

    If the Yankees can reset their rate, a $20M per year 5yr contract will cost them $127.5M for the total contract. If they can’t, it will cost them $150M.

    • Noah_I

      Is the tax for the full amount of their payroll, or just for the amount that is over the luxury tax threshold?

      • Patrick W.

        Of course it is and of course I’m an idiot for not remembering that.

        The difference over 5 years is $48M at the salaries I used.

        • hansman

          There are a lot of revenue sharing penalties to consider as well.

          I think it was reported earlier in the off season that those penalties would cost $80M this year.

          I bet you’re not to far off the calculations.

      • Patrick W.

        This is where I cringe and ask for an edit button!!!

  • http://BN Sacko

    How much time is left for Tanaka to decide?

    • Patrick W.

      11 days. But I don’t trust my math

  • waffle

    if you made it those 3 or the field? I think I would take the field, but it’d be rather close.

  • Tommy

    What are the chances of Trout hitting free agency?

    • hansman

      I’d say really good.

      • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

        Agreed he has the chance (and he should) of having the largest and longest contract in MLB history. The Angels are strapped if for cash if they are to stay under the luxury cap, and that team is only getting older and less likely to stay relevant. If I’m his agent I’m absolutely pushing him to hit free agency if I’m his parent I’m telling him to take a great offer from the Angels now because he could get injured tomorrow.

        • hansman

          If I were him I’d risk it all to be the best free agent to hit the market in an incredibly long time…probably before Maddux if we are just looking at track record.

          • Patrick W.

            He would be my guess for the first player to get a $300M contract.

            • hansman

              The sad part is…10/300 might be lowballing him if he hits FA at 26

  • Kyle

    PSD Insider ABTY reports on Twitter that the industry buzz is the same as these reports: Tanaka’s wants to play in a city that has a large Japanese-speaking population and one that might help his pop star wife gain crossover appeal, and he believes that is only New York or LA. The other teams are just involved in the bidding to try to drive the price up.

    That may or may not be true, but it’s very plausible and fits with the sorts of rumors that have been coming out.

    • hansman

      If that’s true, even the Yankees are playing second fiddle.

      • BT

        I blame Theo for his lack of foresight in recruiting a large Asian population to move to Chicago ahead of time. Anyone with half a brain could have seen this coming.

        • hansman

          Ya, plus that really would have helped us land Darvish and Ryu as well.

          Eh, it was all part of his master plan to appear to come in 2nd on so many different Asian-born IFAs. Going for the record.

        • TSB

          “U want pray in whigrey field?” doesn’t cut it.

        • Kyle

          It seems to me that some Cubs fans are less interested in seeing the team become good than they are in making sure that when it’s bad, no blame gets laid on Theo Epstein.

          • mjhurdle

            It seems to me that some Cub fans are less interested in seeing the team become good than they are in making sure that when it’s bad, they can find ways to blame it on Theo Epstien.

            interesting, it looks like it works both ways. Hurray for vague pointless statements!!

      • CubFan Paul

        “even the Yankees are playing second fiddle”

        I still don’t see the Dodgers paying $20MM plus to a middle rotation pitcher without Kershaw extended.

        • hansman

          Unless they know there is no way they can extend him.

          • CubFan Paul

            They still would be paying $20MM plus a year to a middle of the rotation starter (for them).

            Picking up cheaper options thru trade (Samardzija/Price) or waiting til next offseason makes much more sense than “sign all the pitchers”

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      Honolulu doesn’t have a team.

  • http://benjaminlaw.com Kevin

    [img]KB_4440a 4×6@300-4 2.jpg[/img]

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