Scouting The Market: Masahiro Tanaka

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(Koji Watanabe/Getty)
(Koji Watanabe/Getty)

Two weeks and three days from now, we will know where Masahiro Tanaka will spend the 2014 season. He’s either going to sign with one of the 30 MLB teams by 5pm ET on January 24th or return to the Rakuten Golden Eagles for another year. I like having a hard deadline like that. Wish they could do it for every free agent.

The Yankees are expected to pursue Tanaka very aggressively and in fact, they’ve already made contact with his agent Casey Close. They haven’t made an offer yet, at least as far as we know, but that will happen at some point relatively soon. The new posting system means the price for Tanaka will be enormous, larger than other Japanese imports and easily the richest deal ever given to an international player. (The current record is the $68M the White Sox gave Jose Abreu a few weeks ago.)

Who is Tanaka though? I mean, we know who he is, but what are his strengths and weaknesses? How is he expected to fare in Major League Baseball compared to the less competitive Nippon Professional Baseball? We’ve read bits and pieces about the right-hander in recent months but I think it’s time to put together a one-stop shop for all things Tanaka. That’s what I tried to do with this post — create a smorgasbord of information on the guy. If you have a question about him, hopefully the answer is here. Let’s dive in.

The Vitals

Born: November 1st, 1988 (age 25)
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 205 lbs.
Bats/Throws: right/right
(i.e. short version of Wikipedia): Tanaka drew up in Itami, a suburb of Osaka in southern Japan. He attended Komazawa University Tomakomai High School in Hokkaido, which is a couple hundred miles from home in northern Japan. The Rakuten Golden Eagles, Nippon Ham Fighters, Orix Buffaloes, and Yokohoma BayStars all selected Tanaka with their first round pick in the 2006 NPB draft. The teams then drew straws and Rakuten won his rights. The NPB draft is weird.

Tanaka’s nickname is Ma-kun and it’s often abbreviated to just Ma. It doesn’t actually mean anything from what I can tell, it’s just a high school nickname that stuck. Tanaka’s wife is Mai Satoda, a big time pop star in Japan.

Scouting Reports

This seems like the next logical step in this information overload. Here is a scouting report on Tanaka from Ben Badler (subs. req’d) back in August:

At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Tanaka throws a low-90s fastball that can touch 96 mph. Even though Tanaka can reach the mid-90s, his fastball is the pitch that gives some scouts pause because it comes in on a flat plane, making it more hittable than the velocity might suggest. Tanaka has two secondary pitches that have earned grades of 60 or better on the 20-80 scouting scale, including a 70 splitter with late downward action to keep hitters off his fastball. His low- to mid-80s slider is another plus weapon, while he’ll mix in a curveball as well.

And here is another scouting report, courtesy of Keith Law (subs. req’d) and his top 50 free agents list from November (Tanaka ranked third behind Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury):

Tanaka used to pitch away from contact, but in the past two years, he has become more aggressive within the zone with his fastball, and his splitter is a solid 60 on the 20-80 scale. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and his slider will flash above-average to plus, while he mixes in a below-average curveball and a cutter, the same “kitchen-sink” approach pitchers often use in NPB but have to simplify when they come to MLB.

Tanaka’s delivery doesn’t include as much hip rotation as many pitchers developed in Japan; he hides the ball behind him but doesn’t generate much torque, and he’s got a big hook in the back of his delivery. He also missed a month with an undisclosed injury in spring 2012, which has to be a concern given his high workloads dating to high school.

The optimistic view of Tanaka sees incredible control and at least one pitch, possibly two, to miss MLB hitters’ bats, making him worth the $15 million-plus it’ll take in annual salary to sign him. There are absolutely reasons for skepticism here, but the same holds true for every free-agent starter on this list.

Courtesy of Sweeny Murti, Rakuten closer and former Yankees hurler Darrell Rasner recently spoke about Tanaka as a teammate and gave us a glimpse of how he’s been using his workouts to prepare for MLB:

He’s a good teammate. I’ve watched him last couple years and he’s studied English, he’s worked really hard on that. He was very good with us foreign guys (one-time Yankees Andruw Jones and Casey McGehee and former Phillies/Astros/Royals pitcher Brandon Duckworth also played for Rakuten in 2013). Just him working English and trying to communicate with the non-Japanese speaking players was really cool. A great teammate, fun in the clubhouse. His work ethic is awesome and just all around good guy, good heart.

The ball is different. The major league ball is a lot slicker and a little bit bigger. I don’t know what it is, but (Japanese baseballs) do have some (grip) to them. But (Tanaka) plays catch with the major league ball and throws bullpens with the major league ball. I personally don’t think its going to be a big thing for him. His competitiveness will get him through little things like that that other guys complain about. He’s going to get through those.

This last nugget from Jeff Passan back in November isn’t really a scouting report, but it does shed some light on how the Yankees view Tanaka:

Yankees officials are not concerned the rough tenures of Japanese pitchers Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa would in any way repeat themselves with Tanaka. In fact, Yankees scouts compare his temperament and makeup to a player with far more success in New York: Hideki Matsui.

In other parts of their write-ups, both Balder and Law says Tanaka is viewed as someone who can step right into a big league rotation and be a number two starter almost immediately. It’s worth nothing other successful Japanese starters have gone through what amounts to a one-year transition period — they really took off in their second MLB season, not the first.

Obligatory Video

Because we have to, here is some video of Tanaka from the 2013 season:

That’s every one of his strikeouts, both regular season and postseason. I didn’t bother to count but there are around 200 of ’em.

Obligatory Stats

Because we have to, here are Tanaka’s career stats with Rakuten:

’07 18 Rakuten 11 7 3.82 28 4 186.1 183 83 79 17 68 196 1.347 0.8 3.3 9.5 2.88
’08 19 Rakuten 9 7 3.49 24 5 172.2 171 71 67 9 54 159 1.303 0.5 2.8 8.3 2.94
’09 20 Rakuten 15 6 2.33 24 6 189.2 170 51 49 13 43 171 1.123 0.6 2.0 8.1 3.98
’10 21 Rakuten 11 6 2.50 20 8 155.0 159 47 43 9 32 119 1.232 0.5 1.9 6.9 3.72
’11 22 Rakuten 19 5 1.27 27 14 226.1 171 35 32 8 27 241 0.875 0.3 1.1 9.6 8.93
’12 23 Rakuten 10 4 1.87 22 8 173.0 160 45 36 4 19 169 1.035 0.2 1.0 8.8 8.89
’13 24 Rakuten 24 0 1.27 27 8 212.0 168 35 30 6 32 183 0.943 0.3 1.4 7.8 5.72
7 Seasons 99 35 2.30 172 53 1315.0 1182 367 336 66 275 1238 1.108 0.5 1.9 8.5 4.50
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/6/2014.

Tanaka won the Sawamura Award (Cy Young equivalent) in both 2011 and 2013. Otherwise the stats looks good to me. I reckon the guy can pitch.

Stats, Now With Context

Did you know that offense (particularly power) had declined so much in Japan these last few years that NPB started using what amounted to a juiced ball in 2013 and didn’t bother to tell the Japanese players’ union until midseason? True story. Because of that, we need to add some context to Tanaka’s stats otherwise we don’t know what they’re telling us.

Here’s a table from David Golebiewski that compares Tanaka’s performance over the last three seasons to the performances of other NPB aces during the three years before they came to MLB:

By now you know how ERA+ works, right? One hundred is league average and the higher the number, the better the pitcher performed relative to rest of the league. It’s the same idea for K+, BB+, and HR+, just using strikeout, walk, and homerun rates, respectively. Got it? Good.

As you can see, Tanaka’s performance relative to the rest of NPB these last three years is very much on par with Yu Darvish’s performance the three years before he came stateside. He’s also been way better than Daisuke Matsuzaka was before he came to MLB, ditto Kei Igawa and Hiroki Kuroda and pretty much everyone else. As far as NPB pitchers go, Tanaka has been as good as it gets.

About That Workload

Recently, both Tom Verducci and Passan noted Tanaka’s massive career workload is a red flag. And make no mistake, it has been massive: over 1,300 innings before his 25th birthday, not counting the postseason. The only MLB pitcher to approach that number in recent years is Felix Hernandez, who chucked 1,388.1 innings before turning 25. Clayton Kershaw (1,180), CC Sabathia (1,165.1), Matt Cain (1,095.2), Dontrelle Willis (1,022.2), and Jon Garland (1,009) are the only other pitchers this century to throw more than a thousand innings before their 25th birthday. Here’s the full list, if you’re interested.

Of course, bulk innings are only one piece of the workload equation. Total pitches are another factor to consider and Tanaka sure has thrown a ton of pitches over the years. Here are some numbers from Passan:

Over the last five years, he has averaged more pitches per start, 113.3, than any pitcher in the major leagues. The closest is Justin Verlander at 112.9 and Felix Hernandez ranks second at 106.5. And it’s not just the per-game haul. Some of the individual outings Tanaka has logged horrify the pitch-count phobes.

There were the 742 pitches Tanaka threw over six starts in a two-week span as a 17-year-old at the national high school baseball tournament. And the back-to-back 137- and 142-pitch starts at 20 years old. The coup de grace came during the Japan Series this season, in which Tanaka went 160 pitches during a Game 6 loss, then came back the next day and threw another 15 in relief to close out Rakuten’s championship victory.

Amazingly, Passan never mentions in his article that NPB starters are on a seven-day schedule, not a five-day schedule like MLB starters (Verducci mentions it in passing). They start once a week in Japan, which allows their pitchers to throw a few extra pitches each time out. So while Tanaka has a lot of high individual game pitch counts, he also had extra rest. Here’s another note on his workload from J.J. Cooper:

Over the past four seasons, Tanaka has averaged eight innings per start and he’s pitched a complete game in nearly 40 percent of his starts. Over that same time frame Justin Verlander, considered the iron man of current U.S. starting pitchers, has averaged just under seven innings an outing and has pitched a complete game in 10 percent of his starts.

But Tanaka has been starting only once a week, not once every five days. And he’s been doing it against lineups where he can quite clearly gear up for the middle of the lineup while cruising through the bottom third with lesser stuff, something BA’s Ben Badler noted frequently during the 2013 season.

Does that mean Tanaka’s workload is not a concern? Of course not. Throwing so many innings and pitches — especially at such a young age — is generally a bad idea. Pitching is an unnatural act and doing it a lot will lead to injury. It’s inevitable. The injury could come next week, next year, next decade, who knows? But do it long enough and you’re going to get hurt, guaranteed.

Dice-K and (to a lesser extent) Darvish were subject to similarly high workloads at a young age and were mostly lauded for being durable. That tone has changed in recent years, especially since Matsuzaka broke down two years after coming to MLB. As Verducci wrote two years ago, the Rangers made an effort to control Darvish’s workload after signing him by reducing his side work and using off-days to give him extra rest throughout the season. Tanaka’s next team figures to do something similar but there is no sugarcoating it: his workload is a red flag.

Force Those Comps

I hate comps, the cool shorthand for player comparisons. They’re forced more often than not, especially when it comes to performance. Tanaka is from Japan and therefore we should only compare him to other Japanese pitchers, right? No. Well, not unless we’re talking about workload/transition from NPB to MLB kinda stuff.

If we must (and I guess we must) come up with some comps for Tanaka, we should compare him to similar pitchers regardless of whether they were born in Japan, the Dominican Republic, or Southern California. We should compare him to other pitchers who don’t walk anyone and operate with a low-90s fastball, one knockout offspeed pitch (preferably a splitter), plus another very good offspeed offering.

Jim Bowden mentioned Dan Haren as a comp for Tanaka while Tony Blengino (former stats guy in the Mariners’ front office) mentioned Jered Weaver. Both pitchers are workhorse righties with average-ish fastballs and an array of secondary pitches. Haren in particular seems like a strong comp* because he used a splitter as well, though he is several inches taller than Tanaka and that’s something to consider. Pre-shoulder surgery Freddy Garcia could be another comp as well.

* Haren averaged 4.7 bWAR and 227.1 innings per season from age 25-30, in case you’re wondering. Everyone should be thrilled if Tanaka turns into Haren.

It’s also worth pointing that like Tanaka, both Haren and Weaver work up in the zone with their fastballs and they’ve succeeded in MLB by generating weak fly balls. They don’t get many grounders but the fly balls they get usually don’t travel very far. Here are their batted ball distance charts, courtesy of Baseball Heat Maps:

Haren Weaver Batted Ball Distances

Haren is on the left and Weaver is on the right. You can click the image for a larger view, if you must.

The red dots are individual fly balls and the vertical clusters are seasons, so that’s 2007-2013 from left to right. As you can see, both guys have consistently averaged 275-ish feet per fly ball over the years. A 275-ish foot fly ball is an out with a defensively competent outfield. There’s a reason Haren (.288 BABIP from age 25-30) and especially Weaver (.268 BABIP from age 25-30) have enjoyed lower than league average (.297) batting averages on balls in play over the years. Those weakly hit fly balls are easy outs.

Anyway, back to Tanaka. Dave Cameron came up with some statistical comps — I don’t necessarily agree with his 46-54% ground ball rate assumption, but let’s roll with it — and the group ranges from awesome (James Shields, Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke) to eh (Jon Niese, Wandy Rodriguez, Edwin Jackson). More than anything, Cameron’s list reinforces that the range of possible outcomes is huge. We can slap a comp on any player but they’re usually unfair and almost always incorrect. Masahiro Tanaka isn’t the next Darvish. He isn’t the next Igawa either. He isn’t the next anyone. He’s the first Masahiro Tanaka.

Let’s Talk Money

Thanks to the new posting system, Tanaka is a free agent with a $20M surcharge called a “release fee.” Only the team that signs him has to send the $20M to Rakuten and apparently the release fee is paid out in installments over several years, so it isn’t even a huge one-time payment (like posting fees under the old system) that would burden a small market club. The new system is very player friendly but it really sucks for his former team in Japan. Hard to understand why NPB agreed to it.

The FanGraphs crowdsourcing says most fans expect Tanaka to receive a six-year contract in the $120M-124M range, and according to our poll, that’s maximum most RAB readers are comfortable paying him. That’s just the contract, so add in the $20M release fee on top of that and total outlay is $140M-144M for six years. There’s always a chance some team will go nuts and blow everyone else out of the water with a big offer, but six years and $120M-ish seems like the contract benchmark right now.

The Rangers paid a total of $107.7M for Darvish (contract plus posting fee) while the Red Sox paid $103.1M for Dice-K. Tanaka has way more negotiating leverage than both of those guys thanks to the new system, plus teams have more money to spend right now than ever before. It really is a perfect storm — the available free agent pitchers are all sketchy, the new national television contracts just kicked in, and the new posting system was implemented.

(Adam Pretty/Getty)
(Adam Pretty/Getty)

Given the Darvish and Dice-K costs plus general inflation, that $144M or so outlay for Tanaka actually seems like it might be a little light. I wonder if it’ll end up being closer to $160M between the contract and release fee. Either way, it’s the shape of that financial commitment that hurts the Yankees and really all big market teams. Only the contract is subject to the luxury tax, not the release fee. Darvish and Dice-K commitments were basically split right down the middle, posting fee and contract. Tanaka will be almost all contract.

The Yankees spent the last two years making move to help them get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014 but lol that went right out the window as soon as they missed the postseason last year and lost nearly $60M in ticket revenue alone. Even with Robinson Cano in Seattle, the Yankees are going to be over the luxury tax threshold this coming year no matter what happens with Alex Rodriguez‘s suspension. There’s certainly no way they’ll be under if they sign Tanaka or a similarly priced pitcher.

A six-year contract worth $120M contract carries a $20M average annual value, so adding Tanaka would instantly cost the team $10M in luxury tax money next year. If they are over the $189M threshold in 2015 and 2016 — seems likely given their current contract commitments — that’s another $20M total in luxury tax money thanks to Tanaka. The Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2016 season and who knows what will happen with the luxury tax then. Given how healthy the game is financially, I think they’ll have to raise the threshold to $200M or so at the very least. But I digress.

Tanaka would not be a $140M-ish commitment for the Yankees. He would really be something like a $170M-ish commitment thanks to the luxury tax, maybe more depending on what happens with the next CBA. Thanks to their payroll level, every dollar the Yankees spend on player contracts from here on out is really $1.50. That’s not insignificant and, as Hal Steinbrenner has made abundantly clear the last two years, ownership is very concerned about the bottom line.

The Competition

I looked at the competition for Tanaka a few weeks ago, but since then Badler reported the Mariners are seen as the favorite to sign him. At the same time, Ken Rosenthal reports the Mariners’ front office needs to persuade ownership to open up the wallet to make another big move(s). Given the size of Tanaka’s inevitable contract, just about every GM will have to convince their owner he’s worth it. I’m not sure Seattle is unique in that regard.

Based on everything we’ve heard in recent weeks, here’s how the competition for Tanaka stands right now:

  • Serious Bidders: Cubs, Dodgers, Mariners, Yankees
  • Second Tier Threats: Angels, Blue Jays, Phillies, Rangers, Red Sox, Tigers
  • Interested But Financially Disadvantaged: Braves, Diamondbacks, Indians, Orioles, Pirates

That’s half the league right there. Some of those second tier clubs could simply be playing possum and preparing a massive offer for Tanaka. They all have the financial wherewithal to make a market changing offer if ownership really wanted.

The great unknown here is Tanaka’s personal preferences. Is he simply going to shoot for the largest payday? Or does he want to go somewhere where he’s comfortable and the travel back to Japan is relatively easy? Is being able to wear #18 — considered the “ace number” in Japan — important to him? That would put the Yankees (Kuroda) and Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma) at a disadvantage. Those and a million other questions can be answered only by Tanaka and his agent. The Yankees’ greatest advantage here is their money — they can match pretty much any offer he gets if they really wanted — and maybe (only maybe) the presence of Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki as well. Just because they’re all Japanese doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to get along, you know.

Tanaka is the first truly great Japanese pitcher who will be able to pick his MLB team. Darvish and Dice-K were stuck going through the posting system and both Kuroda and Iwakuma were considered good but not great pitchers when they came over as free agents. (Both have exceeded expectations in MLB.) By my unofficial count, 37 players have come over from Japan as free agents and there was no discernible location bias: 14 signed with East Coast teams (including NPB stars like Hideki Matsui and Kaz Matsui), 12 signed with West Coast teams (Kenji Johjima and Hideo Nomo), and the other 11 signed with Middle America teams (Tadahito Iguchi and Kosuke Fukudome). Japanese players have not shown an inclination to stay on the West Coast so the travel back to Japan is easier, but Tanaka may feel differently. We just don’t know.

* * *

Thanks to the new posting system, Tanaka is the most compelling free agent in recent memory. He’s a complete unknown at the big league level yet the tools are there for him to be an impact player right away. It’s almost as if a draft prospect like 2009 Stephen Strasburg or 2011 Gerrit Cole were a free agent, except you don’t have to worry about stretching him out to 200 innings. Some team — and I truly hope it is the Yankees — will pay Tanaka a boatload of money without being completely sure of what they’re buying.

Hopefully any and all of your questions where answered in this post but I really doubt it. So much about this situation and Tanaka himself is mystery to us, from where we sit. Despite all the money being thrown around and all the scouting that has taken place — the Yankees have heavily scouted Tanaka, including sending both assistant GM Billy Eppler and former special assignment scout Don Wakamatsu to see him — no one knows how this guy will fare in MLB until he gets up on a mound. I find this whole situation fascinating and I’m really looking forward to seeing it play out.

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  • Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

    Wow this is a post and a half. Good job Mike!

    • I’m One

      “Everything you wanted to know about Masahiro Tanaka (but were afraid to ask)”.

    • Laz

      It almost makes up for not posting anything for 2 weeks.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Yeah what an asshole who’s not giving you your money’s worth over the holidays when half of America stops working.

      • Kvothe

        Really hope this is just a joke.

        • CashmanNinja

          Sweet, another “The Name of the Wind” fan.

          • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

            Nice, 2 other “The Name of the Wind” fans!

            • CashmanNinja

              It really is a great series — I love the writing style. My only real qualm is that the author takes freaking forever to come out with books he supposedly already had done (aka – he’s a perfectionist).

      • JMK

        You should totally get your money back.

    • Rick

      Agreed. This is one incredible post. Very well done, Mike-un.

  • mark

    Incredible post. Thank you.

    • TWTR

      It really is. Thanks, Mike.

  • Andy Cooke

    Not sure if this is accurate, but:
    “Ma” comes from his first name; “kun” is a familiar way to address an equal.

  • Vincent Vega

    Tanaka can have #18 and likely be the #1 starter for the Yankees a season from now. I’d be fine waiting a year for those accomodations.

    • I’m One

      Agree on the number. And, as the Japanese culture typically hold elders in high regard, he’d probably be fine with allowing Kuroda to wear #18 for this season and taking the number next season.

      (I’m still holding out hope that CC will be the ace of the team for a couple of more seasons and that last year and the very tail end of 2012 were simply blips on the radar.)

    • Yanks20

      I agree on the number theory…I would have to assume Tanaka has much respect for Kuroda and taking say 17 for a year wouldn’t be an issue. Especially since he wore 17 in some of his clips.

      • Laz

        Agree. If he turns out a career similar to Kuroda I think he should be pretty happy. Kuroda has been great here, and I really don’t think you can ask him to give up his number.

  • Ironbow

    Excellent work!

  • mustang

    Can’t believe that in all this you missed whether he wears briefs, boxers, or boxer briefs and want kind i.e. Jockey, fruit of the loom, Calvin Klein etc. this tells a lot about a man.

    Very disappointed Michael.

  • Upstate Yanks

    Wow Mike, great post. You pretty much covered every facet of the Tanaka sweepstakes. I wonder if he’s all about the money or if he really wants to pitch in a place like NY or Seattle. There hasn’t been much talk out of his camp recently.

    I hope he’s wearing pinstripes in a couple weeks.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I’d stop short of throwing myself naked at him in order to sign him, but I’d throw a naked jjyank at him. He’s taller and younger anyway.

    I want this man in pinstripes. Yankee pinstripes.

    • I’m One

      Since he’s married, not sure if he’d prefer jjyank or Vicki ….

    • jjyank

      Excuse me, Jorge, but I’m not just a piece of meat. My eyes are up here.

  • Kosmo

    “He isn’t the next anyone. He’s the first Masahiro Tanaka.“ I hate comps too.

    By far the best piece I´ve read on Tanaka.

  • Kosmo

    I see the competition for Tanaka in this way- Yanks,Seattle,LAD and Texas. Why would Tanaka want to pitch for the Cubs ?

    • I’m One

      Why would Tanaka want to pitch for the Cubs?

      We don’t know what his desires or needs are for selecting a team. Money may be a significant factor and perhaps the Cubs make the best offer. In general, though I do agree that Chicago appears to have the least to offer among the teams that seem to be the top contenders for his services. Also, there are rumours the A’s may make a run at him. I’d consider them part of the top competition as well.

      • Laz

        I don’t buy the A’s.
        This is going to cost $140M, I don’t see them making that kind of commitment.

    • Caballo Sin Nombre

      The excellent weather in Chicago.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      He’s one of those deviants who actually thinks deep dish is pizza?

  • Mike

    Offer him the Sabathia contract and blow the other teams away.

  • Scully

    Hey Mike, how long does it take you to write a post this robust from start to finish? Is it a one-shot deal or do you work on it slowly for like a week?

    • Mike Axisa

      I wrote about 60% of it on Friday and finished it off yesterday.

    • vicki

      robust. sounds like an espnnyymb alum.

  • Betty Lizard

    Splendid work, Axisa. Splendid.

  • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

    13 comments and not one about Mai Satoda.

    RAB, you disappoint me.

    • I’m One

      I see “Mai Satoda” and think “My Sharona”. BTW, I alluded to her above (simply stating “Since he’s married …”)

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        She is not unattractive.

    • Ray Fuego

      She’s ok, I prefer Tsuji Nozomi.

      I find Korean girls more attractive.

      • Ray Fuego

        Tsuji Nozomi was/is (I can’t remember) a bandmate of Mai Satoda

      • Caballo Sin Nombre

        Lucky guy, you get your choice of hot female Asian starts. Me, I have to settle.

        • Caballo Sin Nombre


        • Ray Fuego

          haha personally I “settled” for a beautiful latina

    • Pinkie Pie

      Mai Satoda is one hot piece of ass.

      • I’m One

        I certainly wouldn’t kick her out of bed.

        • Caballo Sin Nombre

          Be honest: what percentage of females between the ages of 18 and 40 would you kick out of bed?

          • I’m One

            50% ?? Just a guess. +/- 10%.

  • dp

    It makes me laugh to see the Cubs and Mariners as serious contenders for Tanaka…why would he coming off a Japanese Championship want to go to a losing organization?

    To me the competition for him is Red Sox, Yankees, Cardinals, Giants, Angels and Dodgers.

    The team I am most worried about is the Giants.

    • RetroRob

      Players signing multi-year deals can see past a season or two, and have access to the same information — sometimes even more — than we do. So a player looking at the Cubs will see Epstein is now running them, the development of the farm system, and certainly the committment they’d be willing to make to him. As long as there is a plan in place, the player will consider it.

      The Mariners to me would be a more difficult sell. Sure, they can point to Cano, but I’m not as convinced of their long-term plan as I am the Cubs.

      • Preston

        Players also might find an appeal in “making” a team a winner. Tanaka on the Cubs or Mariners may not make them automatic contenders, but it definitely helps.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Giants have a ton of catching up to do. I don’t know if I see them as serious bidders.

    • Jersey Joe

      You do remember 2013? It wasn’t exactly something that would inspire a superstar to come here.

      Yes, there is a legacy of winning and many more players returning, but nonetheless 2013’s season probably won’t make Tanaka see the Yankees as contenders.

  • OldYanksFan

    I absolutely concur:
    “Splendid work, Axisa. Splendid.”

    I go on record as saying that I was for a rebuilding year in 2014, and maybe extending to 2015. That meant GETTING the $189m, No Ellsbury, NO McCann and certainly NO Beltran. That also meant THREE additional picks to continue to build the farm for the future, as well as another decent pick from the inevitable 4th/5th place finish. I think adding expensive contracts on the back of 3 more years of CC, Teix and ARod was a MISTAKE.

    That said: We are now between a Rock and a Hard Place.
    We have gone ‘All In’ (except for Cano) but are still well short of a definite contender. We NEED Tanaka, simply because we decided to stay on the same tract (overspending to build from the outside, and screw draft picks, and eat the now 50% tax), and now have no other choice.

    So Tanaka will cost us AT LEAST (with posing fee) some $24m/year, and another $10m+/yr in tax.

    I do like his commitment to playing in MLB. To be successful, most Japanese pitchers will need to adapt to the different MLB environment. I believe over 6 years, he will be a solid #3. Better in his first 2 years, then sliding as the league (and workload) catch up with him.

    He will be grossly overpaid (especially considering our tax situation), but the die is cast.

    Watch out for Seattle.
    I believe they will show Tanaka a LOT of respect.

    So who gets Tanaka?
    Well…. if he plans on bringing his wife with him (and maybe starting a family in the next 6 years), then HER needs and the needs of a family life, will probably be a BIG part of his decision.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      NY won’t show Tanaka a LOT of respect? We have a pretty rich history of Japanese players ourselves.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Didn’t you hear? Webster as adjusted the definition of the word “respect” to how Robinson Cano defines it.

        • Caballo Sin Nombre

          I thought it was “Respec!” No wonder I couldn’t find it in the dictionary.

  • mitch

    I’ve had Tanaka penciled into their 2014 rotation for like a year now. It’d be a pretty big letdown if he ended up elsewhere.

    • TWTR

      Given the alternatives and their existing financial commitments, the only way the Yankees should lose this negotiation is if he absolutely, positively doesn’t way to be a NYY.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I’ve been the opposite. I’ve kept a healthy distance until recently. Still the same end result, though.

  • Massapequa Parking

    All I keep thinking is “fastball . . . comes in on a flat plane.”

    • mike c

      which is why comments like “give him the CC contract” are absolutely ridiculous

    • nobutreally

      I’m not sure how true this really is though. IAATMS has done a few write ups in recent days detailing pitchf/x data that establishes Tanaka’s FB as having excellent movement all around. My concern is more that he likes to work up in the zone and doesn’t really throw on a downward plane, which Major Leaguers will certainly punish more than NPB’ers.

      • qwerty

        I’m sure working a 90+mph fastball up in the zone in yankee stadium will have no effect on his game.

  • Vern Sneaker

    Really great post, thanks. I have this uneasy vision of major league hitters learning quickly to lay off his sinker thereby turning him into merely a somewhat above average major league pitcher. Whatever. He’s better than Phelps, Warren, et. al and it’s not my money. Let’s go for it.

  • Vinny Bag-a-donuts

    Absolutely amazing work Mike, thank you for all you do for us!
    If it gets up to 6/140 that would scare me a little. That is Grienke/Hamels money, both proven aces in the MLB. Anything less than that I would go for it (easier to spend other people’s money!)

    • hey now

      Axisa is always great, but this…this is just brilliant. We’re blessed as fans to have this kick ass site.

    • OldYanksFan

      I may be wrong, but if you count the posting fee in there, I believe someone will go higher than 6/$140m. Other teams aren’t faced with a 50% additional tax.

      I don’t know Seattle’s financial situation, but it seems to me to be smart to all but bankrupt the franchise NOW to capitalize on Cano’s next (best?) 4 or 5 years. Did they really spend all that money on Cano just to be a .500 team? Tanaka alone is not enough to get them to the PS, but it should excite their fanbase (all 1,543 of them) enough to put some fans in their stadium.

  • pat

    Happy wife is a happy life. If I were a Japanese pop star (which could very well be the case) I’d want to go to LA or NYC. Certainly not Seattle or Chicago. Both wonderful cities in their own right, but nowhere close to the other two. And while I’m disparaging cities, LA sucks so it’s gotta be NYC.

    • Mandy Stanbkiewicz

      This was exactly what I was thinking when the wife’s perspective was brought up before.
      Also, great/thorough article. And when we say ‘Tanaka,’ and someone responds ‘Irabu;’ I’ll point them directly to your 3 seasons stats. Well done!

    • Gene

      Hey , I am a Yankee fan and hope Tanaka signs with the Yankees but why does LA suck ? Must I remind you that it is cold today in LA with a high only going to be 61 degrees today but in New York and Chicago I heard might be a little cold recently I understand ?

      • pat

        Oh yeah, plenty friggin cold no denying you guys have the weather advantage. I’ll tell you what though, outside of the boardwalk/beaches LA sucks because of the traffic, lack of public transportation and the pervasive “fakeness” of the whole place.I sprnt several weeks there a few weeks ago. Was not a fan. Love other parts of Cali though.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        ….and if I had to meet you on the other side of town for dinner, I’d have to pack an overnight bag in LA just to gt there.

        Dodger Stadium, though? Beautiful.

  • Liam

    Great post, thanks for all this valuable info!

  • hey now

    This is exactly the type of pitcher they need: A bullpen saver who can be counted on to end losing streaks.

    They have to sign him. You’re the Goddamn Yankees. It’s time to start acting like it again.

    Make him an offer he can’t refuse, Don Corleone-style.

    • John C

      Randy Levine held a gun to his head, and Cashman assured Tanaka that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.

      • Preston

        Comparing Randy Levine to Luco Brasi is insulting. Luco was much more eloquent and better looking.

  • Mike Eder

    Some shameless self promotion. I put together Tanaka’s 2009 WBC performance in GIFs and PITCHf/x numbers here. Like Axisa, I hate comparisons, but in regards to the movement and velocity of PITCHf/x, Tanaka’s fastball matched up with Kershaw, slider with Greinke, and splitter with Darvish. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be as good, but during that game the numbers matched up best with those pitchers. His release point matches up with Edison Volquez, he gets low to the ground but maintains a high arm slot. Otherwise, check out the GIFs but keep in mind small sample size and how long ago it was.

    • Dan G

      I understand the hatred of comps but I have to say things like this helps me to understand the TYPE of player a guy is, regardless of skill level.

      Remember when they kept calling Wieters “Mauer-with-power”? Not only did that projection turn out totally false, but their styles couldn’t be more different.

      So to compare Tanaka to Darvish (or Cano to Pedroia, etc.) makes zero sense because Darvish is more of a traditional power fastball/Clemens-type pitcher and it sound like Tanaka is a little more finesse/Kuroda type (any of which I would gladly take).

      • RetroRob

        My favorite compares was when Jesus Montero was compared to a young Frank Thomas or Miguel Cabrera. It was always meant more for the style of hitting as opposed to the upside, but he was pretty much doomed from the start with those compares!

    • I’m One

      For anyone that hasn’t yet seen Mike Eder’s post, it’s worth the time. A nice compliment to Axisa’s post above. Both pieces are outstanding work. I love this stuff. Thanks to both of you!

      • OldYanksFan

        Link please?

        • RetroRob

          It’s a couple notes directly above yours. Mike Eder posted it.

      • Mike Eder

        Thank you. I usually hate to advertise my stuff, so it means a lot.

    • Mykey

      Very cool read.

  • TopChuckie

    So what really is going on right now? If no offers have been made, what sort of discussions are taking place, if any, or is nothing going on and everyone is just on standby waiting until the deadline gets closer and it’s less risky to put your cards on the table? It just doesn’t seem like it needs to take this long unless he literally is visiting each team and taking offers and then shopping those offers to other teams. Once it’s narrowed down to the serious offers, then you can start getting into details and particulars. That’s the part that seems like it would take the most time, but that can’t really happen until you have narrowed it down to the finalists, so I would think the goal would be to narrow it down as soon as possible, thus soliciting real offers as soon as possible.

    • RetroRob

      Brian Cashman: Hi, Casey, it’s Brian. Listen, I hope you’re over that nasty bit of Derek Jeter negotiations from a few years back. I see you have another client we’re very much interested in. Just like with Derek, feel free to explore the market for the best offer, but we intend to be very agressive.

      Casey Close: No, not upset at all, Brian. Think nothing of the fact I went straight to Hal this time and got Derek an extra $3M. Love doing business with you guys. I also love doing business with the Dodgers, as you know, since I also represented Zack Greinke as well as Clayton Kershaw.

      Cashman: Kershaw, yes, hmmm, check back with us on that next year.

      Close: Absoluetly. So how’s the wife and kids? Oh, sorry, forgot about the wife situation.

      Cashman: Ouch. Well, back to Tanaka.

      Close: I’m heading off on vacation but will be back after the new year, let’s talk then.

      Cashman; Great. We’ll get an offer together.

      Seriously, joking aside, it appears no offers have been exchanged. Some teams probably contacted Close immediately (and the Yankees appear to be one of them) to let his client know they were very much interested, but it also appears Close did go on vacation. Might as well let the pot build to a slow boil.

      I suspect serious offers will begin shortly, but I also expect this will go on for a couple more weeks, close to the deadline. Some teams with interest are probably just laying back to see where the initial market goes.

      • TopChuckie

        I still just think there is no reason to drag it out. If Close wanted to go on vacation over the holidays, so be it, but it’s time to get down to brass tacks. There is no reason to delay. The market is not going to build by letting it simmer. You have plenty of bidders to establish the best price. If I were Tanaka, due to the deadline, I would want things moving along ASAP. The last thing I would want would be to hit some sort of snag late in the game and have to panic and accept a deal I wasn’t fully settled on, or else head back to Japan with $140M less in my pocket.

        I would start by going to visit the richest team I didn’t really want to play for, get an offer from them, and then go from there. Find out roughly what the max dollars are going to be from each team, decide where I’d prefer to play all else being equal, and then start talking about perks, opt-outs, and whatnot to try to find the balance between preferred teams and preferred packages. Waiting to get serious only seems to limit the player’s options, and opportunity to shop those options.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I think that, if visits were being made, something would be leaked about them. I’m somewhat surprised at how quiet this has been thus far.

  • Oops I Crapped My Pants

    The report is pretty long….but uis this guy any good???

    Well done Mike, Tanaka would look very good in pinstipes!

  • ClayDavis

    Dumb question….Are the contract offers blind bids? Or can Close/Tanaka go back and forth amongst teams? Ultimately go with the highest bidder?

    • TopChuckie

      It’s open for negotiation back and forth.

    • RetroRob

      They can go back and forth and negotiate with any team willing to pay the posting fee. So he really is in a true free agent situation, which is why he’ll get a big contract.

    • Caballo Sin Nombre

      Pretty sure Tanaka can negotiate however he wants. That does not necessarily mean he will want to go with the highest bidder. Given his background I would think he would favor a more cosmopolitan city. Not that all the towns on the list don’t qualify, but some are more internationally-flavored than others.

    • Tom

      He’s basically a FA with 2 exceptions:
      1) There is a 1 month clock on the negotiations – if he doesn’t sign within a month of his posting, then he goes back to his team (and presumably is posted again next winter)
      2) Whoever signs him obviously has to play the 20mil posting fee to his former team as part of the whole posting process.

      His agent can shop offers around and go back and forth between teams and I’m sure there will be whispers at some point on various offers unless he signs very quickly. He also can go whereever he wants (so he doesn’t have to take the highest bid).

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Just like any other FA, at this point.

      • ClayDavis

        In that case (unless Tanaka absolutely hates NYC) there is no way the Yankees should not get him. They have the money and the rotation is weak. Seems to be a fairly obvious call here. If they let him go based on dollars, going to make Hal look…not good.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          So if, say, the KC Royals (just because I’m sick of typing in the usual suspects) offer him 7/161, you think the Yankees should top that?

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Also, like Tom said above, there’s a time limit, which makes him decidedly NOT like any other FA. I misspoke there.

        • qwerty

          Let him visit the stadium and take a tour of the bronx. There’s no way he’s going to hate NYC after that.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            He can visit the “Butt Boosting Jeans” shop on Fordham Rd. The wife might love that.

  • Mykey

    I will not get excited again! I will not!

    I’m pretty terrified of someone like the Mariners or Cubs just throwing him an absolutely ridiculous contract he can’t say no to. It may be irrational, but it still haunts me

    • I’m One

      That’s not irrational at all. Just look at Cano’s contract.

      • Mykey

        True, but Cano has several elite seasons in the MLB under his belt and is at least a known commodity. I don’t expect Tanaka to be another Kei Igawa fiaco by any means, but there’s certainly some layer of unknown.

        • RetroRob

          Right, which means any team making a bid is taking a risk. The Mariners or the Cubs might be willing to take more of a risk than the Yankees. There is a point where you have to walk away, and the market in unknown. In other words, your fears are not unfounded!

          Also, getting back to Mike’s point about Ichiro and Kuroda and if they might play any part in this. My guess is it would be very small to non-existent. It will come down to the money, but certainly having two players who have made the transition and speak your language on the same team can’t hurt. Yet, following that logic, the Mariners have Iwakuma, who isn’t just a pitcher from the same country. He was a teammate of Tanaka’s in Japan.

          If I’m in Casman’s shoes, I also have him have Matsui reach out to him. They’ve already met at Yankee Stadium a few years back, and Matsui to this day is still a bigger star in Japan than Ichiro.

          • TWTR

            This has to be an ownership-down driven recruitment strategy, with Hal/Levine enlisting the aid of a top public relations strategist to best gauge how to sell Tanaka on what should he an easy sell, all things (i.e., money/his desire to play here) being equal.

            • A well-known public relations strategist

              Who the hell is this guy?

          • Mykey

            I understand what you’re saying. My thoughts are that my fears may be irrational not because the Cubs and Mariners may be willing to throw more money at Tanaka, but more so because Tanaka would supposedly be more interested in playing for the Yankees than either of those teams.

            Here’s to hoping that’s the case.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Exactly, as to the first paragraph.

            • TWTR

              The Yankees great strength, according to some, is a much greater ability to outspend their mistakes than other teams.

              But is a $160m mistake really that much worse than a $120m mistake for the Yankees? I doubt it.

              • Jorge Steinbrenner

                Perhaps. Perhaps not.

                That’s the slippery slope, though, that agents count on in order to get as much as possible. It’s up to the franchise to draw the line for themselves as to what is too much risk, and that’s something they’ve been rather good at lately.

                I’ve argued against this “The Yankees can cover their mistakes” stuff already. I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to do so.

  • Nathan

    Very good article. I’m in a time crunch and glanced over it but def a quality read.

    Quick question: Who was scouted more heavily, Tanaka or Darvish? My memory may be cloudy since it’s been a few years but I seem to think the Yankees were talking about Darvish for years while Tanaka really only came up this year.

  • Farewell Mo

    Cashman needs to fly out to California or Japan or wherever Tanaka currently resides and either come back with a signed contract or don’t come back at all.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      How about just signing him?

      • Farewell Mo

        Whatever he has to do, just get it done.

        I wanna see the Yankees flex their financial might and put the Mariners back in their rightful place and a 2nd division team.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          The Mariners will probably do a pretty good job at remaining a laughing stock themselves.

    • qwerty

      Cashman will be in a better position to negotiate if he does nothing and let Tanaka come to him.

  • OldYanksFan

    I think to some extent, the market has been set. Numerous articles have been written saying that Tanaka will probably get 6/$120m. I will guess Close has seen these, and of expects that to be the minimum bid.

    On the high end, as someone above mentioned, this is NOT the same kind of deal as Cano. Nobody expects Robbie to fall off the cliff in the next 3 or 4 years, and he has already posted WARs higher than expected from Tanaka. I really think the range is 6 or 7 years, and $100m – $140m. The truth is Tanaka IS still an unknown, and considering the mileage on his arm, as well as the past history of Japanese SPs, nobody would be shocked if he turned out to be a ‘meh’ pitcher.

    My guess is Tanaka is doing research and talking with his wife. I believe he will chose the combination of Team/Location that suits his family the best. I don’t think and extra $3m or $4m a year will motivate him to spend 6 years somewhere that he or his wife doesn’t really want to be.

    I believe we really have the advantage in this regard…. as long as his wife comes with him. If for some reason she stays in Japan, then the West Coast may seem more practical.

    • Farewell Mo

      The truth is Tanaka IS still an unknown, and considering the mileage on his arm, as well as the past history of Japanese SPs, nobody would be shocked if he turned out to be a ‘meh’ pitcher

      No one would be shocked if Garza, Jiminez, Santana or nearly any of the other FA starter turned out to he meh either.

      • OldYanksFan

        I’m not comparing them. However, Garza/Jiminez/Santata are not going to cost $140m.

        • Farewell Mo

          Garza and Jimenez might end up costing $85-90 million though. I’d take Tanaka at $120 plus $20 posting than either of those guys at $80 million plus.

          It was also possible Darvish could have turned out to be a bust too but nothing ventured, nothing gained

          • qwerty

            That’s over 23 million a year for unproven talent. You’re paying for an ace even though scouts only rate him as a number 2.

            • qwerty

              And that doesn’t even include the luxury tax on his contract. We are talking about 33 million a year for Tanaka! LMAO!

    • Mike

      Fantastic. Hopefully his wife is from NY.

    • OldYanksFan

      Heres the MSAs by Japanese Population in 2000
      (Don’t know how much that will have changed in the 2010 census)
      1 Honolulu, HI 161,748
      2 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 148,319
      3 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 48,714
      4 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 46,469
      5 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 32,074
      6 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA29,8267Hilo, HI 21,754
      8 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA 20,260
      9 Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI 19,215
      10 Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA 16,938

      Read more:

      • Farewell Mo

        Good thing Hawaii doesn’t have a major league team.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        The Honolulu Ahi Poke are clearly a sleeper to look out for here.

      • Mike

        According to those stats, we are the favorite to land Tanaka.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    I’m surprised you didn’t include the minor league innings for CC, Cain, Kershaw and Willis.

    • forensic

      Something else that people almost never bring up when discussing his innings and pitch count is that it’s not like he was brought up like US MiLB pitchers where they’re babied all along and suddenly they were having him throw those innings and pitches out of nowhere.

      Pitchers over there prepare and are brought up to do things like that, so it’s not necessarily like he was suddenly thrown into the fire doing things like this or that it’s out of the ordinary for him.

      Many people believe that US pitchers could do the same thing if conditioned to do so from an early point in their career, but teams over here generally haven’t had the guts to do it.

      Sure, it’s something to consider, but no moreso than some of the injury concerns that you get with US pitchers and the FA pitchers available now.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        And others will correctly point out that Whitey Ford’s arm didn’t fall off.

        It’s a classic argument.

  • OldYanksFan

    Oh…. you guys are gonna like this! (h/t to a poster on RLYW)

    • TopChuckie

      That all sounds good, but I suspect he’ll have to keep it in the top gear a lot more in MLB than in Japan. I don’t think he’ll be able to get away with the lower gear even against the bottom of a MLB lineup. That, in turn, compounds those pitch counts. It’s a lot easier to throw 160 pitches at 70% than at 100%.

    • TopChuckie

      Furthermore, if he is so good, why does he even need 160 pitches to get through the inferior Japanese lineups? Dice-K 2.0?

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I know very little of that game. Do we know why the 160 pitches even happened?

        • forensic

          Complete game, 4-2 loss in Game 6 of the Japan Series. 12 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts. Three of the four runs against him were driven in by former MLBer Jose Lopez (former Mariner beat Tanaka? They lose the bidding!!!). And since it’s the Japan Series, it’s not like it’s some random basement-dweller of a team/offense he’s facing. His team only scored him 1 earned run on 3 hits.

          In Japan, they try to honor the best pitcher on the team by having him on the mound for the end of the series, so that may have led to some of him being extended to finish the game (and of course to close the next game).

          • TopChuckie

            If I was a team scouting these crossover players I would definitely look at their splits versus former MLB players, in comparison to the rest of the foreign league batters. If they are regularly getting smacked around a bit by AAAA players, maybe temper expectations.

            • forensic

              I’m not sure I would go so far with that. In this case, though Lopez wasn’t an awesome player over here, he had a couple of serviceable (even above average) offensive seasons, and always showed some power. Two of the three runs he drove in were on a 2-run homer, which could happen to any pitcher against any batter without it necessarily being indicative of something or a pattern.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              Have you ever seen the kind of random numbers some hitters have against some pitchers? I’m not quite sure a certain pitcher’s numbers while facing Wlademir Balentin mean much.

              Scout thoroughly.

              • TopChuckie

                I’m not talking about a single batter versus pitcher scenario, I’m saying if all the former MLB players playing in Japan, because they aren’t good enough to play here, are able to hit Tanaka better than the other Japanese batters, that would seem to indicate he’s more likely to struggle when he gets here and faces the MLB batters that are good enough to not be relegated to Japan.

                In other words, his performance against former MLB’ers may be more indicative of what to expect than his performance against the whole league.

                • Jorge Steinbrenner

                  I’d be interested in seeing that, just to see if there’s really any glaring differences. I honestly doubt you’ll find that that sort of dramatic split, and I’m not entirely sure it would hypothetically matter much to me.

                  In the end, though, there’s a ton to learn simply from watching him against all hitters.

        • TopChuckie

          I don’t know either. It was a loss, could have been 0-0 into the 12th, but I was speaking more in general anyway. In the “Workload” portion of Mike’s article he mentions similar high pitch count games and a higher average pitch count per game than any MLB pitcher. My question remains, if he really is good enough to be an ace in MLB, should he need so many pitches to get through those inferior Japanese lineups, or is he so inefficient, ala Dice-K, that he will be hitting 100 pitches by the 5th inning every game versus an MLB lineup?

          • forensic

            The lineups over there aren’t as powerful as MLB lineups, but they are much more contact-oriented, so it’s not necessarily so easy to put them away with quick K’s like it sometimes is over here. They’ll fight lots of pitches off.

            Also, in comparing Tanaka’s pitch counts to Verlander’s, it wasn’t mentioned that Tanaka also averaged getting more than 4 extra outs per game over what Verlander did, while using less than 1 extra pitch per game.

            • CashmanNinja

              The point about them being contact oriented is a very important tidbit. A lot of their hitters use a similar approach that Ichiro does. They may not all possess 20+ HR power, but they do have decent overall technique. They definitely do well with making contact and fouling pitches off. So pitching to contact there is much different than in the majors. There will be more power threats over here, but there will also be more power threats who are all-or-nothing type players (i.e. Adam Dunn, Mark Reynolds, etc). If he were wild like an A.J. Burnett then I’d be a bit more hesitant, but Tanaka has had very solid control and won’t be as prone to “mistake” pitches that someone like Burnett would consistently throw. Phil Hughes is another that would always leave a mistake pitch right down the damn middle.

  • JGYank

    Great post. Couldn’t of been more detailed.

    We all want him, the only questions now are what are the chances of landing him, what it will cost, and how will he perform and adjust.

    The goal of coming the U.S. isn’t only about winning it’s also about testing his ability, so he may or may not consider losing teams. Both the Cubs and Mariners have great farm systems so they could say they have bright futures and I’m sure they could dole out the cash if they wanted to. Also the Mariners are on the west coast, have had Ichiro in the past, and have Japanese owners I think, and seem to spending to build the team around Cano and Felix. So can’t rule them out. However, coming to NY would put his ability to the ultimate test and we have the tradition pitch and other Japanese players have come here like Matsui Kuroda and Ichiro as well as Japanese/Asian fans if he cares about that. The Dodgers can offer pretty much the same pitch though with an even larger Asian fan base, having Nomo, being on the west coast. They also nearly have the money to match us and don’t lack tradition either. But I don’t really see the need since adding Tanaka would only add to an already solid rotation and they still want to lock up Kershaw. Texas could go after him, but I’m not sure after adding Fielder and Choo how much they have to spend. Darvish and Tanaka together would be very interesting though. The Tigers did lose Fister but are looking to extend Cabrera and Scherzer while the Phils need to get younger and got a new TV deal. So with several other competitors capable of landing him our chances aren’t great.

    I think he clears $100M without much trouble. Teams will want to keep his deal close to what Texas paid overall for Darvish and they would still have to pay an extra $20M, but this is a bidding war for starting pitching and it could get crazy. I think his contract might be around $135M/7 years. He’s still 25 so I could see teams offering 7 years to lock him up through his prime despite the workload questions. You could argue his workload has strengthened his arm anyway. Around $20M a year sounds about right. Hopefully we get to see him pitch in the U.S. Hard to tell how good he will be if he does pitch in the states he probably will be some where between slightly worse than Darvish and average but will have an advantage since the league hasn’t seen him before.

  • forensic

    Leave no stone unturned.

    Maybe they could even try to get his wife a recording contract in the US.

    Hey! Jay-Z is a Yankees fan and has a label, I bet he could help…

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Can she sing 90’s grunge?

  • qwerty

    How stupid would it be if the yankees invest 170 million into this guy.

    • Mykey


  • william

    his wife is a pop star
    that means only three cities have a chance
    NY, Seattle and LA
    she won’t go to texas

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Prince still has an eye for talent.