Japanese starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will be one of the most sought-after players on baseball’s free agent market this winter. Someone will almost surely pay the 25-year-old right-hander a ton of money, and apparently the New York Yankees are willing to do just that to get him.
Tanaka is considered by far the best free agent pitcher available this winter but there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding him as far as when bidding will take place, who his agent will be and just what he is seeking for a contract. That said, it is all but guaranteed that Tanaka will become the most expensive import in baseball history. The Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs and Giants are almost certain to bid on him, while some smaller market teams will likely get involved as well.
This past season in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Eagles.
The MLB record for a posting fee is the $51.7 million the Texas Rangers shelled out to land Yu Darvish, who has been fantastic for the team. Tanaka is regarded as a better prospect. One National League executive believed the posting fee for Tanaka could reach $100 million, but other executives said the $75 million range was probably more accurate.
And remember, the posting fee is just to earn exclusive negotiating rights to the player, a team would still have to sign him to a contract after that.
Early reports suggest the Yankees are going to be the team to beat for Tanaka and they will be willing to lay out a significant chunk of change to win his negotiating rights. While they want to keep their total payroll below $189 million next season, the posting fee for Tanaka won’t count against the luxury tax threshold.
Re-signing second baseman Robinson Cano is the top priority for the Yankees, signing Tanaka is second.
In seven professional seasons, Tanaka is 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA and a 1,238-to-275 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 1,315 innings. He finally suffered a loss during a 160-pitch outing in the Japan Series, but he came back the next day to throw the final 15 pitches of the championship-clinching victory for his team.
So yeah, I’d say the guy is a workhorse as well. Right now all signs point to the Yankees winding up with Tanaka.