Re: Would you advise the Red Sox to send in their 20 M posting fee?
posted at 1/2/2014 3:25 PM EST
Mike Bauman of MLB.com
...If anything, Tanaka's 2013 season was so good as to nearly enter the realm of myth. He was 24-0 with a 1.27 earned run average for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, leading the club to the championship of the Pacific League, and a triumph in the Japan Series. He won his second Sawamura Award, Japan's equivalent to the Cy young Award.
Those numbers are reminiscent of Bob Gibson's immortal 1968 season (22-9, 1.12). The pitching was so good that year that the mound was subsequently lowered to give the hitters at least a marginally better chance.
In the case of Tanaka, you look at 24-0 and 1.27, and you think there had to be something else going on. Perhaps the competition wasn't all that rigorous. But that sort of thinking by Americans in regard to Japanese baseball is outdated, antiquated and fundamentally incorrect.
Tanaka has been duly scouted, studied, analyzed by all of the appropriate people. The consensus is that he is significantly better than any other pitcher on the free-agent market this winter. Plus, he is only 25. This should not be a case of an American team getting a Japanese pitcher whose best days were all spent on the Asian side of the Pacific Ocean.
Some North American franchise is going to have to pay dearly for Tanaka's services. The $20 million posting fee maximum agreed upon by the Major Leagues and Nippon Professional Baseball will simply attract more clubs into the bidding. Before that agreement expectations were that Tanaka's posting fee would exceed the record $51.7 million paid for Darvish. With a six-year, $60-million deal on top of that, the total cost to the Rangers for Darvish was nearly $112 million.
With the new $20-million maximum on posting fees, the Rakuten club will receive less of a windfall, for Tanaka's posting. But Tanaka's total take could very well be considerably larger than the deal Darvish received.
It is a risk for a Major League franchise to spend a bundle on a pitcher who has never pitched for a standard North American professional baseball team. This will only be clear with the precise vision of hindsight. But in this case, going after Masahiro Tanaka does not primarily represent risk. It represents one distinct path to an improved rotation.