Obsessive Tanaka Watch: Concern Over Kickbacks, Evaluating Talent, Red Sox Lurking?

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Obsessive Tanaka Watch: Concern Over Kickbacks, Evaluating Talent, Red Sox Lurking?

Chicago Cubs

masahiro tanakaWith the New Year approaching, we’ll probably finally see some hard Masahiro Tanaka rumors – i.e., Team X has made a substantial offer – soon after the calendar flips. From there, he’ll have about three weeks to sign.

  • The Los Angeles Times reports that MLB is concerned that the Rakuten Golden Eagles have worked out an arrangement with Masahiro Tanaka whereby the pitcher would give back some of the contract he receives to Rakuten, who is displeased that posting bids have been capped at $20 million. Rakuten officials have essentially said publicly that this was the plan (talking about Tanaka paying for new facilities), and there was chatter about this long before Tanaka was actually posted. I guess MLB doesn’t want these kind of backdoor shenanigans polluting the negotiating process, which is supposed to be exclusively between the soon-to-be MLB player and MLB teams. For example, if some of the money coming to Tanaka is going to go to Rakuten, they might be involved in the player’s negotiations, and then there could be backdoor dealings between Rakuten and certain MLB teams to steer Tanaka to a particular team, contrary to what he might want to do. For another example, imagine dealings between an MLB team and an NPB team before a player is even posted, where there’s an agreement in place to send extra money to the NPB team once the player signs (thus cutting out the other 29 MLB teams from possibly getting the player). MLB has gone so far as to formally request that Rakuten confirm it has no such side deal in place with Tanaka (per the Los Angeles Times), though it’s unclear how Rakuten will respond, or what would happen if Rakuten said, “Whateva, we do what we want.” This is definitely an aspect of the story to watch.
  • Baseball Prospectus scouts Tanaka in depth, and it’s really worth a read (requires a subscription). The short version: because of the low trajectory that allows Tanaka to have superior command, he will have success the first time through the league, but could be hit quite a bit the second time through. He’ll have to adjust, as all good players do, and it’s hard to project how that will work out for him.
  • Jim Bowden says the best comp for Tanaka is Dan Haren in his prime, with great command and a 70 splitter. I don’t love getting into the comp game, but holy-crap-prime-Dan-Haren was good: he was annually a five or six win pitcher, which is a guy who would be worth as much as $25 to $30 million per year in free agency (by WAR/$). If Tanaka actually became that guy, you’d give him seven years and $140 million and laugh all the way to the bank (or the playoffs, hopefully).
  • The Rangers front office confirms that signing Tanaka at this point, financially, would be a “tough thing.” They are looking more at back-of-the-rotation options right now. I don’t think you can count the Rangers out, but I don’t think this is just gamesmanship. (Increasingly I wonder, though: if the money is close from a lot of teams, isn’t Tanaka going to want to go somewhere that he can be “the guy,” or, at the very least, not the second fiddle to Yu Darvish?)
  • Both Nick Cafardo and John Tomase note that the Red Sox have not been heavily connected to Tanaka in rumors, but suggest that perhaps they should be. Each says that Tanaka makes a lot of sense for the Red Sox, who may yet get involved.
  • Although teams have reached out to Tanaka’s agent Casey Close already, ESPNNewYork reports that nothing is expected to happen until after New Year’s Day. Even then, I’d think that we’ll see a round of meetings/offers/wooing, and we’re not likely to actually hear of final suitors for another couple weeks.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.