Masahiro Tanaka could be a Houston Astro. On this Christmas Eve, there have been rumors on Twitter that the Rakuten Golden Eagles have decided to post the coveted pitcher.
Tanaka could be an interesting development in the new rivalry between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros. Yu Darvish is a pitcher who dominated the Astros lineup a couple of times during the 2013 season. Tanaka pitching for the Astros would immediately create a “Best From Japan” battle between the two Texas MLB teams. The potential is quite nice as the Astros could rise from their three straight 100 loss campaigns with Tanaka on board.
This offseason, Astros G.M. Jeff Luhnow has acquired Dexter Fowler, Scott Feldman, Chad Qualls, and Matt Albers to fulfill Jim Crane’s promise of increasing the payroll. Jason Castro is arbitration eligible and also likely to see a salary increase in 2014. Hopefully, Luhnow and the Astros still have some financial flexibility.
The new posting system has been a detriment to the decision to post Tanaka. However, reports have started to show that Yozo Tachibana (president of the Rakuten Golden Eagles) has decided to post Tanaka in order to increase global sales for the team. Under the old system, the Texas Rangers made a record bid with a posting fee of $51.7 million paid to the Nippon Ham Fighters, the team that Yu Darvish played for in Japan. The new system eliminates the blind bidding war in favor of creating a supply and demand type of market. Prospective MLB teams will bid a maximum of $20 million to negotiate with the player.
(David Manning-USA TODAY Sports)
Tanaka has definitely impacted the free agent pitching market as the question has primarily been if he would be posted. Now that it appears Tanaka will be coming to the United States in 2014, qualified free agents Matt Garza and Ervin Santana are waiting to see how much Tanaka will earn. Their salary will be affected by Tanaka’s contract. MLB teams are probably more likely to bid on Tanaka since they will not forfeit a first-round pick as Tanaka is an international free agent. Prospective employers may have decided against Garza and Santana in favor of Tanaka because of this fact.
Masahiro Tanaka has quite the impressive resume from his tenure with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. For the 2013 season he pitched to a 24-0 record with a 1.27 ERA. Across 7 seasons in the NPB, Tanaka has a 2.30 ERA in 1,315 innings, posting 1.9 BB/9, 8.5 K/9, and 0.5 HR/9 rates.
He can certainly command his pitches well. That is something that the Houston Astros starting rotation needs. The walks allowed in recent years are something that kills not only me and other fans, but the walks allowed are one of the reasons why Lucas Harrell was so ineffective during the 2013 season.
Perhaps a signing of Masahiro Tanaka is not a part of Jeff Luhnow’s plan. If it is not, then I still trust Luhnow’s judgement. But if acquiring a pitcher of his resume and his skills is possible, the rivalry between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros will finally spark. The comparisons would be natural.
I would love to be able to say “Houston, we have Tanaka.” Happy holidays everyone.