In the old days when the New York Yankees made a free agent such as Robinson Cano an offer of 7 years and $175 million everyone else usually scattered and Red Sox nation whined about NY being the Evil Empire.
But times they are a changing. Today that 7/175 offer is considered disrespectful. With revenue sharing, more teams having their own local TV deals, and billionaire ownership groups, the Yankees are no longer the only game in town.
It seems like only yesterday, the Seattle Mariners had to let Kenny Griffey Junior, Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson leave because they couldn’t afford any of them. Now, the Mariners have 240 million for Robinson Cano, and are legit players for Tanaka.
So despite all of the barking coming from the media about how the Yankees will go after Masahiro Tanaka hard, no doubt they will, the question is, where will Tanaka bite?
According to reports the Japanese sensation’s agent, Casey Close, is starting the bidding at five years and $100 million. Given the teams rumored to be seriously in pursuit, (Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, Red Sox, Cubs, Rangers, Phillies, Diamondbacks and Mariners), seven years in the $140 million range is not an out of the question landing point.
This high stakes game of poker doesn’t come without risk. There is a reason teams prefer to stay away from contracts over three or four years with pitchers. Tanaka may only be 25 but young pitchers get injured too. See Stephen Strasburg’s Tommy John surgery. Rapid decline of skills, and in this case, a pitcher who hasn’t thrown one pitch in an MLB game are other risks.
Tanaka’s wishes must also be factored into the prediction equation. And if the report is true, that he prefers to stay on the west coast, than that may be his deciding factor if the offers are in the same ballpark.
So when considering the risk/reward of his signing, and his alleged preference, where is the best fit? Who should take the risk? And where do I predict he will land?
To me, the Los Angeles Dodgers make the most sense. They are built to win now. Tanaka can be reasonably slotted as their number three starter giving him an advantage when he pitches against an opposing team’s number three.
Given the hype, the spotlight will be on Tanaka wherever he goes. However, this scenario will afford him the opportunity to ease into his role with less pressure than if he were with the Yankees, where depending on whether or not CC Sabathia can have a bounce back year, Tanaka may be expected to carry a staff.
In wouldn’t be the same devastating blow as it would be for the Yankees. In a way, this makes Tanaka a safer risk for the über rich Dodgers than the Yankees.
If he does live up to expectations, Tanaka takes the Dodgers from a projected playoff team to projected World Series favorite.
From Tanaka’s perspective:
- The west coast is closer to Japan,
- Is a less pressurized environment than the east coast,
- The Dodgers are a team that is ready to win,
- They play in a pitcher friendly ballpark,
- He wouldn’t have to be the ace of the staff or even it’s number 2.
If the money offers are even close (and the Dodgers may offer the most) it should be a no-brainer.
The Seattle Mariners could be a threat as their “one dumb owner” is already in for 10 years with the Robinson Cano deal. They will not compete with what they have. Unless they manage to trade for Tampa Bay’s David Price, I can see Seattle doubling down and going 10 years and around 200 million for Tanaka. Then I can see the Dodgers (and everyone else) walking if they do. Tanaka would slot nicely behind King Felix Hernandez. This wouldn’t make Seattle a World Series favorite, but a strong playoff push, relevance, and justification for the Cano signing, may make this risk worth it for this floundering franchise.
Minus the Carl Crawford hiccup that the Dodgers bailed them out of, the Boston Red Sox have been disciplined in avoiding long-term contracts. So this bidding war doesn’t fit their recent M.O.. And with the number of teams in the bidding they don’t even need to fake interest just to drive the price up for the Yankees.
However, they have laid pretty low this off-season, even for them. They have plenty of money in the coffers and, like the Dodgers, the World champs are built to win. And though the east coast pressure would be intense, barring injury, the Sox would also have two aces in front of Tanaka in Jon Lester and Clay Bucholz.
If the Texas Rangers bid is competitive, outside of the Dodgers, Texas would be a great landing spot for him. Assuming a good relationship with Darvish, both being pitchers and from Japan, Darvish can help with the transition. With Rangers’ other additions of Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder they would be World Series favorite.
Given where the money and years are projected to go, I see Tanaka as too big a risk for the NY Yankees. Unlike Texas, Boston and L.A., Tanaka doesn’t make them a world series favorite nor a lock to even make the playoffs. Unlike Seattle, the Yankees aren’t about being competitive to just make the playoffs. As good as Tanaka is, there are reports he is more of a number 2 starter than a 1. The Yankees simply would still have too many questions:
- Can CC return to true number form?
- Can Hiroki Kuroda at age 39 pitch a full season like he did the first half last year before fading?
- Can Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, stay healthy and productive?
- Can David Robertson replace Mariano Rivera as a closer?
- The loss of Andy Pettitte?
- What is up with Alex Rodriguez? Is he playing? Is he playing well?
There are just too many questions with the Yankees that going beyond 5/100 is too risky for them. Besides, I think a competitive offer from another team leads Tanaka in another direction anyway.
With NY Yankees economic advantage over other teams no longer being what it was and being at their own economic edge, they cannot afford or absorb mistakes as they could in the past and be able to further buy their way out.
Despite lying low on Tanaka, the Dodgers are in the better position to take this risk on Tanaka.
The Yankees will have to get used to no longer being able to immediately gratify every want and need. Building a farm system is no longer a luxury. In this economic landscape it is a necessity.