It is very possible that Masahiro Tanaka will be the best pitcher to change hands this winter. So should the Houston Astros go after him?
The 25-year old starting pitcher will be available as a free agent from Japan. Logistically, it is still unclear how the process will work as that is currently up for debate and discussion. But what we do know is this; Tanaka will be very expensive. And he is also very good. Well at least he has been in Japan.
Last season Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and .94 WHIP while striking out 183 batters in 212 innings. Tanaka began his career as an 18-year old in 2007 and in his seven year career he has a record of 99 wins and 35 losses. The starter’s ERA is 2.30 to go along with a 1.11 WHIP. So we cannot argue that Tanaka is a very talented pitcher who would look good in any rotation.
But at what cost?
The larger market teams are quite concerned about the luxury tax this season. That makes Tanaka even more desirable to them as his posting fee will not count against the tax threshold. All that means is that the posting fee will be outlandish.
When Yu Darvish was posted, the Texas Rangers bid $51.7 million just for the right to negotiate with him. The current rumor is the posting fee for Tanaka will eclipse $100 million. And then the winner will still have to sign Tanaka to a contract. This could be a very costly transaction.
We know that Tanaka has put up extraordinary numbers in Japan, but it is still Japan and it is not entirely clear how his performance will translate to the major leagues. Plus, maybe more importantly, Tanaka has a lot of mileage on his young arm already. He began his career at the age of 18 and already has logged 1,315 innings and his arm has endured a great deal of stress, high pressure situations, and abuse.
The general impression that I get here, is that the Astros are at least considering the idea of Tanaka, but it is likely that they will be outbid. And at this point, that is perfectly alright as I don’t think that Tanaka is worth the risk.
“Well, we’ll see,” Astros owner Jim Crane said Thursday when asked about Tanaka. “We were active in the (Jose Dariel Abreu sweepstakes) a pretty heavy way. I think we came in second or third. We were in the neighborhood (of $60 million for Abreu). But I think, we wouldn’t rule it out. We’re going to take a look at everything. At this point I think we’re looking to continue to bring some of our players up — it’s really (general manager Jeff Luhnow’s) job to do that. He’s going to be trying to strengthen the team, go with the core guys we got. We’ve got some guys coming up that could be very helpful. So we’re looking for — I’m looking for significant improvement on the win-loss record this year.”