The time to strike on Tanaka is now

(Koji Watanabe/Getty Images AsiaPac)

(Koji Watanabe/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Just nine days remain in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes. Chances are we’ll know the winner even before that, since nine days is the deadline by which he must sign on the dotted line. He could come to an agreement within a week.

Speculation has run rampant, but we’ve had little in the way of actual reports about Tanaka. It seems as though his agent, Casey Close, has done a good job of preventing leaks from MLB teams. A few “reports out of Japan” have circulated, but since the original “reports out of Japan” indicated Tanaka wouldn’t be posted at all, it’s easy enough to dismiss those.

It does seem as though most media outlets agree that the Yankees and the Dodgers hold the best shots of signing Tanaka. Early in the process the Mariners looked like a good bet, and the Diamondbacks continue to linger. But right now, it would be a surprise to see him sign anywhere in between the two coasts.

At this moment the Yankees could be in an advantageous position. Ken Rosenthal reported this morning that the Dodgers attention is now on their own ace, Clayton Kershaw. With arbitration figures due on Friday, the Dodgers are eager to lock up Kershaw, likely to a record deal.

This situation could present the Yankees with an opportunity: make Tanaka an offer in mold of the one they made CC Sabathia in 2008. No, it shouldn’t be six years and $140 million, but it should certainly be a bold and aggressive offer, one Tanaka would have trouble rejecting. It shouldn’t be their best offer, either; as we saw with Sabahtia, there has to be at least a little upward flexibility.

Given that Tanaka has nine days to sign, regardless of an offer, he could simply defer a decision until after the Kershaw situation becomes clearer. But that shouldn’t stop the Yankees from stepping in and making an aggressive move while the opposition focuses elsewhere. Strike now.

Categories : Musings


  1. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    Don’t scare him, Michael.

    Does anyone ever call you Michael?

  2. Willie says:

    Hal wont compete with the Dodgers the only way the Yankees get him if the Dodgers dont want him

  3. Dalek Jeter says:

    I posted something similar to this question a few days ago, but mlbtr said that the Dodger’s aggressiveness on Tanaka will be directly related to the success or lack thereof in extending Kershaw. So as Yankee fans would you rather sign Tanaka or the Dodgers sign Tanaka if it means Kershaw hits the open market next off season?

    • mitch says:

      I’d take Tanaka. Kershaw hitting the market doesn’t guarantee anything. It likely only means more money for him from LAD.

  4. Vinny Bag-a-donuts says:

    Casey is having a hell of a week, huh? Might end up signing 2 of his players to over $400MM in contracts! I wonder if he holds things up until after Friday so he can focus on Kershaw?

  5. mitch says:

    I’d be surprised if Kershaw signs an extension before Tanaka gets signed. If Tanaka ends up getting 150, Kershaw will have every right to ask for 300

  6. TWTR says:

    Show him your wallet, Hal!

  7. Anthony says:

    I have really little faith in the Dodgers NOT signing Tanaka as well.

  8. Chris says:

    Casey is about to make a looooooooooot of money. Good to know that while I’m waiting for my meager raise, this dude is about to get one hell of a bonus. But that’s the business I guess…

    Regardless… Go get ‘em Hal!

  9. LK says:

    While this sounds fine in theory, I’m pretty sure the Dodgers aren’t going to ignore Tanaka just because they’re trying to lock up Kershaw. If the Yankees want Tanaka they’re going to have to put in the most aggressive offer, simple as that.

  10. xman says:

    well, if you want him it better be 6/140. Because, anything short of that will be a token offer.

  11. Mike says:

    Offer him the Sabathia contract and get it done.

  12. steves says:

    Two points:

    1) Find it hard to believe that Yanks have not already made a significant offer; there is no posturing needed on this one.

    2) How does Casey avoid the inherent conflict here? (the better he does for Kershaw ($30M per ?) the chances of Tanaka going to the Dodgers are significantly reduced;

    • TWTR says:

      Conflicts are really only a problem when they are undisclosed. Both parties are aware of the representation in this case and have chosen to continue the relationship.

    • OldYanksFan says:

      1) Kershaw is more important.
      2) All LA has to do if offer something highish, say 6/$125m, and the Yanks will top it. Close will get paid for both.

    • Chip Rodriguez says:

      What inherent conflict? He’s an agent for a lot of players. He’s supposed to get them the highest salary he can, regardless of who pays the bills.

      If he gets a monster salary for Kershaw, then he can go to work pitting the Angels and Yankees against each other to get Tanaka a huge contract as well. There’s no loyalty to one team or another here.

      • steves says:

        An agent is supposed to achieve what the client wants. Money is one component but what if Tanaka also wants to be a Dodger? Sorry Masahiro, I did such a good job for Kershaw the Dodgers can’t pay you as much now. That inherent conflict is what I am referring to.

        • LK says:

          Right but you have to consider the alternative. As it is, Close is going to get Kershaw a massive contract and then get Tanaka the best deal after that. If Tanaka switched agents, Close would get Kershaw a massive contract and Agent X would get Tanaka the best deal after that. Not even Boras would be bold enough to try to convince the Dodgers that they’d be better off with Tanaka than Kershaw, so I doubt this makes any practical difference in this case. If anything, the opposite could happen – Close could go to the Dodgers and say, the market isn’t what I thought for Tanaka, if you make a big offer I’ll try to knock a few dollars off the Kershaw extension.

      • JRod says:

        Tanaka was in Los Angeles last week. The Angels did not even meet with Tanaka. To me, this is a fairly strong indication that the Angels are out of the equation.


    • lightSABR says:

      And steves’ post outs all the lawyers. Good work, steves.

  13. OldYanksFan says:

    I say start with 7/$135m, with an opt-out after 5.
    Can the Dodgers afford $150m AND $275m?
    That’s some serious money on pitchers.

    • lou says:

      Nobody is getting him less then 20 mil per season. It wouldn’t surprise me if it came close to 30 million per season.

  14. JRod says:

    Fascinating. The Dodgers are apparently about to give Kershaw a well north of $200 million deal. Kershaw and Tanaka have the same agent, who now has to assess whether this huge deal takes one of the prime candidates out of serious contention for Tanaka. If so, it might behoove him to do a deal with the NYY before the Dodgers extend Kershaw. There’s nobody else left on the board unless you seriously believe he’ll sign with Seattle or the Cubs or the snakes. Possible of course, but wildly unlikely. I agree with Joe, this thing could drop very nicely into place for the NYY. Of course, who knows, apparently the Dodgers could have a $300 million payroll without worrying about it while the Yanks are still flirting with some twee austerity narrative.

  15. Brandon says:

    Can we use some of that A-Rod money and just give him huge $$$ to get this done? We need starting pitching!

    • mitch says:

      I want Tanaka as much as anyone, but at some point he’s just not worth it. I’d probably draw the line at 6/120+20. If you have to spend 150mil+ i’d prefer to spread it around. I think you could get Garza, Jimenez, and Drew for that amount.

  16. Dalek Jeter says:

    I think it would be a terrible move by Close to wrap up the Kershaw negotiations before the Tanaka ones. I mean, sure he already has a lot to point to (Verlander, Felix, CC, etc) but I think it would be hugely foolish for him to not wait for Tanaka to sign a deal between 5-7 and 120-170 and use that as a huge negotiation tactic.

    • The Great Gonzo says:

      Sure… Counterpoint though: If the Dodgers come to you and say they want to talk and they bring one of those oversized checks that Happy Gilmore had in the back of his car with them, and they’ve ALREADY filled out the first 8 Zeroes…

      You kind of have to listen, Tanaka be damned.

    • I'm One says:

      So he should get Tanaka signed first? Leaving the Dodgers less money to sign Kershaw? From an agent’s perspective, get the big money deal done first. Tanaka will get his money (minimum of 6/$120M is my guess) from someone. Unless, of course, Kershaw is not interested in an extension, but since they’re engaged in negotiations (at “the one or two yard line” is being reported) that seems extremely unlikely.

      Kershaw was his client first and will get the bigger contract (by far). He should be the priority.

  17. Frank says:

    I still say he signs with the Dodgers. For the Yanks to get him, they are going to have to really over-pay.

    • lou says:

      I’m thinking 20 million per season still isn’t going to cut it.

      • Frank says:

        I think even $20M per for an unproven pitcher (in the States) is completely insane.

        • Farewell Mo says:

          That’s the going price.

          Choices are pay it or sit home in october because the rotation is average at best and the available free agents aren’t the answer.

        • lou says:

          I agree Frank also check out my last post.

        • LK says:

          You can think it’s insane, and you might even be right, but if you want to sign him that’s what it’ll cost. Passing on all of these contracts (Cano, Ellsbury, etc.) seems like a good idea, until you get to April and you have a shitty baseball team.

      • lightSABR says:

        Remember all those decades ago, when we thought the Rangers were nuts to spend $51 million to talk with Darvish?

        Oh, wait. That was 2012. The way the cost of talent has gone up the last few years is just amazing.

        • LK says:

          I think the talk about Darvish’s price being crazy was very misguided. Everyone saying that was emphasizing that it was 100M for an unproven commodity and ignoring that if the commodity were proven it would’ve cost twice that, maybe more.

          But your overall point is extremely correct – the price of players is going up, and at a very fast rate. It’s almost like this would be an atrocious time to try to cut payroll…

  18. Dan says:

    I agree, they should make a big offer to price out as many remaining teams as they can, with enough wiggle room to match/top a topping offer from the remaining big market teams (Dodgers and Cubs).

  19. Dick M says:

    If we had some internal options (we haven’t developed any top line starting pitchers since Andy freakin Pettitte), then Tanaka wouldn’t be such a huge deal. Unfortunately we have to have this guy to be competitive in 2014.

    The question is will Hal go over the 189.

    • I'm One says:

      The question is will Hal go over the 189.

      If he makes any offer over about $1.00, he’s willing to go over. Once he’s over, then the Yankees may as well go all in.

      • Dick M says:

        I think there’s a real good chance that Hal is making “offers” to prove his “earnestness” and it’s a PR smokescreen.

        At any rate, just because he makes an offer over a buck doesn’t mean he’s willing to go over.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

          Prove what? Nothing, literally nothing, has been publicized.

          If he was going for a publicity statement, it’s a really shitty way to do it.

    • Dan says:

      Exactly, they are under $189m right now, but they’re a non-playoff team (I think they can compete throughout the year, but will end up playing meaningless games in September, like last year). Hal has always said winning is more important than $189m, now’s the chance to put up or shut up. Tanaka will take them over $189m no matter what, but it will make them a playoff team (provided he somewhat lives up to the hype).

      I don’t think they’d go over $189m for any of the remaining free agent SPs after Tanaka, even if it means no playoffs.

      We shall see . . .

      • LK says:

        Honestly I’m not sure how this team competes throughout the year as currently constructed. They have a good OF and C, but every other aspect of the team is questionable at best. I think “compete but end up falling short of the playoffs” would be the likely outcome *after* they add a guy like Tanaka.

  20. lou says:

    How about the Yankees instead of Tanaka take care of those glaring holes in the infield? No 2b or a guy that hasn’t been healthy since 09. A SS who will be 40 in June and coming off an injury plagued season. A 3b that cannot be found 3000 miles of New York. A first basemen who is also coming off an injury and seems to lose even more at the plate as the years goes on but let’s give Tanaka 20 million + per season and cycle in a pile of misfits in the infield. As you can see it worked with the 2013 Yankees when they decided to go all bench in the field….

    Someone please be real for a second.

    • I'm One says:

      And who are these replacements you are suggesting they go after?

      • lou says:

        You mean who are these “non replacements” they go after. I’m looking for full times players to play the infield. The Yankees are going to have to start calling up teams and start making offers with the little they have. “via trading” It’s time they start getting creative and making moves or letting other teams know what they are looking for.

        But a 2014 infield with 3 question marks isn’t going to make the team a contender. We saw what happened in 2013 when guys I never even hears of has 50 PA to many.

        I’ll give you one position that the Yankees can get by with a platoon of guys but let’s be real it can’t be three.

        • Mr. Roth says:

          It’s time they start getting creative and making moves or letting other teams know what they are looking for.

          And what makes you think they haven’t done that already?

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

          Counts the actual suggestions you came up with: 0.

          If you forego Tanaka for some magical infield cure, then your rotation still sucks. There are a lot of holes, getting mad that they’re trying to fill arguably the biggest is really, really silly.

    • lightSABR says:

      I’ve thought this myself a few times, but the more I’ve looked at the free agent infielders, the more I’ve realized that with the possible exception of Stephen Drew, they’re not significantly better than what we already have.

      And Drew is risky, having trended in the wrong direction for years before his Fenway-fueled bump last year. I was hoping the Yankees would sign him, because I mostly care about maximizing next year’s playoff odds and figure they can just spend more money to fix problems later, but if they’re convinced Drew isn’t worth the price and want to wait for someone who is, I can understand that.

      So, if upgrading the infield is impossible, and you want the Yankees to improve the team, Tanaka is the way to do it.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

        “So, if upgrading the infield is impossible, and you want the Yankees to improve the team, Tanaka is the way to do it.”

        Agreed. Maybe not “impossible”, but so unlikely as being not worth speculating over, unless you believe Mark Reynolds is the answer to our prayers. And in that case, I have news for you; the answer is named Scott Sizemore and we just signed him!

        Get on board the Sizemore train while you still can! Plenty of room!

        • I'm One says:

          I’m actually hoping he’s healthy and proves to be better than league average to very good for the years he remains under team control.

        • lightSABR says:

          I always kind of assumed that Mark Reynolds was destined to be our last-minute scrapheap pickup, and I was dismayed when it came out that the team won’t give him a big-league contract – I thought it was evidence of Plan 189 coming back.

          But after a few minutes on Fangraphs, I realized that Reynolds probably isn’t any better than what we’ve got on the team right now. Maybe a little bit, but the likely difference is so small that I can’t complain about them refusing to sign him.

      • LK says:

        I would be OK with Drew for 2 basic reasons:

        -I think they need Tanaka AND Drew before they can really start to fancy themselves contenders. If they sign Tanaka, they’re right in the sweet spot where the team isn’t good enough but is close, and those wins are the most valuable ones. Even the most bearish person on Drew would have to admit that he can help this current team a lot.

        -The team is short on IF knocking on the door from the farm, there are very few good IFs that reach FA, and all 3 (non-1B) IF positions are wide open, with the possible exception of 3B if Jagielo (sp?) can move quickly. It’s pretty likely that Drew will be useful in the years of the deal after this one as well.

        But yeah, other than Drew the IF market is a wasteland.

        • lightSABR says:

          I agree completely, unless they’ve decided to go all out after at least two infielders next offseason and don’t want money tied up in Drew when they do that. In that case, I’ll just TiVo all the games next year and skip all at-bats by the left side of the infield.

    • mitch says:

      because Tanaka is available and good infielders are not.

    • Farewell Mo says:

      As someone stated the other day, the infield is a tire fire but there’s not much they can do about it now other than plug one hole with Drew and/or wait until next year to sign a couple from the Headley, Sandoval, Jed Lowrie, Azdrubal Cabrera or Hanley Ramirez group.

      That’s not a reason to pass on a 25 year old with front of the rotation potential however

    • Mr. Roth says:

      So you propose they ignore the glaring deficiencies in the starting rotation to sign which available 2B & 3B?

      You realize that baseball teams are able to negotiate with more than one player at a time, right? Just because they are pursuing Tanaka doesn’t mean they can’t pursue an infielder as well.

      • LK says:

        “You realize that baseball teams are able to negotiate with more than one player at a time, right?”

        This statement is both true and also quite applicable as a response to the article itself.

  21. RetroRob says:

    Don’t you just hate it when you write a thoughtful article and it is already yesterday’s news before the end of the same day?! : -)

  22. fred robbins says:

    I’m curious… does Tanaka play 3rd or shortstop? Can he pitch every 3 days, because it seems the Yankee pitching staff is a wreck with an old, tired Kuroda and a very average CC and then who? Robertson will be clobbered as a closer and in general this team has as many wholes as a slice of swiss cheese.

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