BOSTON (CBS) — In case you missed the news that broke during Christmas week, the Rakuten Golden Eagles changed course and announced that right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will be posted, thereby allowing all 30 MLB teams to make a bid for his services.
Will the Red Sox be one of them?
At this point, it’s hard to tell. With six viable starters already on the roster, and with at least two more ready to fill any spots should they open up, the Red Sox head into 2014 in a comfortable position regarding starting pitching. Then again, Jon Lester’s contract expires after the 2014 season, John Lackey is getting older and his deal ends after 2015, Clay Buchholz still hasn’t proven he can stay healthy enough to pitch 200 innings per year, Felix Doubront is far from a sure thing, and as the old adage goes, a team can never have enough pitching.
Still, the Red Sox certainly aren’t in a position of desperate need for starting pitching, and the same can’t be said about the Yankees. And when the Yankees desperately need to fill a spot, it’s hard for any team to outbid them. The New York Daily News reports that the Mariners could try to make another big splash to complement their Robinson Cano signing by going after Tanaka, but the “big-market heavyweights” like the Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Cubs and Rangers all are expected to be in the mix.
While many in Boston — both within and outside of the organization — may feel hesitant to spend tens of millions of dollars on an unknown player from Japan, thanks to the mostly unsuccessful Daisuke Matsuzaka era, it’s important to note that the process has changed significantly. Back in 2006, a team looking to negotiate with Matsuzaka had to make the highest bid, and in the Red Sox’ case, that was more than $51 million. When Matsuzaka’s six-year, $52 million contract was added to that, it represented a significant investment on a player with no MLB experience.
It’s different now, in that all 30 teams are allowed to negotiate with the posted player, and only the team that reaches an agreement with him will be forced to pay the posting fee, which is now set at $20 million.
So what this pursuit will come down to is simple: Which team is willing to offer the most money to a 25-year-old pitcher with a lot of promise? Tanaka went a ridiculous 24-0 last season for the Golden Eagles, posting a 1.27 ERA in the process. For comparison’s sake, Matsuaka went 17-5 with a 2.13 ERA in his final year in Japan before joining the Red Sox, while Yu Darvish went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA in his final year in Japan. Darvish actually posted ERAs below 1.90 in each of his final five seasons in Japan. Tanaka has twice posted a 1.27 ERA as well as a 1.87 ERA in his last three seasons, going 53-9 in that span.
Ryan Johnston and Mike Flynn discussed Tanaka’s availability and whether the Red Sox should pursue the right-hander: