(Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

(Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

Three weeks and one day from now, Masahiro Tanaka‘s 30-day negotiating window will close. He’ll either sign with one of the 30 MLB clubs prior to 5pm ET on January 24th or he’ll return to the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan for another season. I would bet a lot of money on the former. A lot.

The Yankees have already contacted Tanaka’s agent Casey Close — Close also represents Derek Jeter, but I don’t think that automatically gives them some kind of advantage. Close represents plenty of star-caliber players — and they’re expected to pursue him very aggressively. He was their top pitching target coming into the offseason and nothing has changed despite the team’s early-winter spending spree and the revised posting system.

That new posting system has completely changed the market for Japanese players. Rather than having teams place a blind bid to win exclusive negotiating rights, Tanaka is essentially a free agent with a $20M surcharge. Whichever team signs him sends the extra $20M to Rakuten, otherwise any team can talk to him for free. His contract will be much larger than fellow Japanese hurlers like Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka. His negotiating leverage is enormous.

Of course, Tanaka is still the same pitcher today that he was a few weeks ago, before the posting process was revising. His earning potential changed dramatically but his pitching skill did not. There are questions about his ability to translate from NPB to MLB just like there are with every Japanese pitcher. Some team will pay through the nose because they believe Tanaka can make the transition seamlessly. What’s an appropriate contract though? Let’s look at some benchmarks.

Seven years, $175M-180M
These are the Felix Hernandez ($175M) and Justin Verlander ($180M) contracts, which are essentially tied for the largest pitching contract in baseball history. Clayton Kershaw will smash these numbers at some point in the next 13 months one way or another, but it’s unlikely to happen before Tanaka signs. Felix was only one year older than Tanaka is now when he signed his extension, making him the most age appropriate comparable we have. A lot more than age will be considered, obviously.

Seven years, $161M
This is CC Sabathia‘s original contract with the Yankees, which was then the largest pitching contract in history. He was three years older than Tanaka when he signed and his track record of durability was insane. Tanaka has been a horse in Japan but not on Sabathia’s level when he first signed with New York.

Six years, $144M-147M
Cole Hamels ($144M) and Zack Greinke ($147M). Both guys signed their deals at age 29 (four years older than Tanaka) and were low-level aces. Highly durable and among the best pitchers in the baseball for sure, but inconsistent enough to keep them just outside the game’s truly elite. Based on everything we’ve heard in recent weeks and months, that’s the kind of pitcher Tanaka may settle in as in MLB.

Six years, $120-124M
These numbers come from the FanGraphs crowd, which has been surprisingly accurate the last two winters. The masses tend to be pretty solid guessers, it turns out. This is more or less Matt Cain’s recent extension with the Giants (six years, $127.5M), though he surely would have gotten more as a free agent. Cain was three years older than Tanaka is now when he signed.

Six years, $100M
No pitcher in baseball history has signed a contract in this neighborhood. The closest are Kevin Brown (seven years, $105M) more than a decade ago and Adam Wainwright (five years, $97.5M) a few months ago, but that extra year changes everything. Both guys were over 30 when they signed as well. I’m including this contract in the post just because we need something between the FanGraphs crowd and…

Five years, $77.5M-82.5M
C.J. Wilson ($77.5M), A.J. Burnett ($82.5M), and John Lackey ($82.5M) territory. This has become the benchmark for very good and occasionally great starters, innings eaters who fit best as the number two guy in their rotation. All three of these guys signed their contracts after their 30th birthday, however. Tanaka just turned 25 in November and that’s a huge part of his appeal.

Six years, $51M-$60M
These are the contracts Dice-K ($51M) and Darvish ($60M) settled for when they came over to MLB. It’s worth noting Darvish can opt out of the final year and $11M of his contract if he meets some Cy Young voting criteria. It is very hard to see Tanaka settling for a deal of this size. Even five years and $51M-60M seems light. We can never really rule out this type of contract, but it is worst case scenario (for Tanaka and Close) kinda stuff.

* * *

Tanaka’s eventual contract is tailor-made for a poll, so let’s do that. Just to be clear, this poll is asking how much you would give Tanaka, not how much you think he will eventually receive. I’m curious to know how you folks value him, not how you think teams will value him. FanGraphs did that already. Is that clear? Good. Vote away.

UPDATE: I broke the poll somehow. Please enter your vote again. Thanks.

What's the most you would offer Tanaka?

Comments (125)

The 2013 calendar year was pretty awesome to me. Yeah, the Yankees stunk, but it’s only baseball. Everything in my personal life went great and everyone’s happy and healthy. I couldn’t ask for much more and I hope this past year was great to you as well. Hopefully 2014 is just as awesome, but with a contending Yankees team. Life is always better when the Yankees kick ass.

Here is your open thread for New Year’s. Enjoy the last night of 2013 but be safe. Lots of crazies out there, man. See you folks in 2014.

Categories : Open Thread
Comments (49)
  • Gammons: Cashman says Yankees will not sign Stephen Drew
    By

    Via Peter Gammons: Brian Cashman said yesterday that the Yankees will not sign Stephen Drew. The free agent infielder is said to be “awaiting some further Yankee clarity” before signing a new contract, likely meaning he wants to see if they’ll make an offer should Alex Rodriguez be suspended. If nothing else, it would give him some negotiating leverage against the Red Sox.

    Drew, 30, hit .253/.333/.443 (109 wRC+) with 13 homers this past summer, includes a .284/.377/.498 (137 wRC+) line against righties. Everything you need to know about him is in the Scouting The Market post. Thanks to injuries and looming suspensions, the Yankees have questions at all four infield spots. Adding another infielder is a must if A-Rod is suspended, and, really, they should look to add one even if his ban is overturned. Drew is by far the best available free agent infielder.
    · (77) ·

(Rich Schultz/Getty)

(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Mason asks: Why is Ichiro Suzuki an auto-cut? Wouldn’t that be Vernon Wells or is it both? I would rather cut Wells and use Ichiro as the 4th OF. Maybe I’m being a bit too sentimental but I wouldn’t want to do that to Ichiro even if he is below league average in multiple ways.

I don’t think Ichiro is an auto-cut at this point, but I wouldn’t call his roster spot safe either. The Yankees are reportedly shopping him and it’s not a bad idea to see if they can unload part of his contract. It’s not like he’s irreplaceable. Someone like Zoilo Almonte could do the same job for a fraction of the cost.

I definitely agree Wells is first in line to get the axe should the Yankees need a 40-man roster spot, which they inevitably will the next few weeks. Brian Roberts and Matt Thornton still need to be added to the roster, so that’s two spots right there. Wells brings pretty much nothing to the table (it’s remarkable, really) and he absolutely should go first.

As for Ichiro, his role right now is something of a glorified fifth outfielder. He is fifth on the outfield depth chart but because Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano will split right field and DH duties, Ichiro will be the first outfielder off the bench in most games. His primary job will be pinch-running and late-inning defense in right (regardless of whether Beltran or Soriano starts in the field).

The various projection systems crush Ichiro and expect him to be replacement level-ish next year, which is not unfair. He hasn’t hit at all these last three seasons and his defense slipped last year, particularly in the second half. Ichiro started only ten of the team’s final 17 games in 2013 and Joe Girardi was right to marginalize him. His name value far, far exceeds his on-field value at this point.

The Yankees won so much in the late-1990s thanks in part to their veteran-laden bench, which was filled with former stars like Tim Raines and Darryl Strawberry. Those guys accepted reduced roles and thrived in limited time. I don’t know if Ichiro can be that kind of player next year — he doesn’t have Stawberry’s power or either guy’s on-base ability — but that’s the best case scenario. For now, he’s a bench player the team should look to unload if possible.

Categories : Mailbag
Comments (50)

Hopefully all of you had a great weekend and are still basking in the holiday downtime. I’ve always found this last week of the calendar year to be pretty relaxing, especially after all the stressful weeks leading up to the holidays. This is pretty much my favorite week of the offseason.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. There is no football game and none of the hockey or basketball locals are in action. You’re on your own for entertainment. Talk about whatever. Go nuts.

Categories : Open Thread
Comments (27)
  • Must Click Link: The Randy Levine-Alex Rodriguez emails
    By

    This is too great. Steve Fishman of NY Mag published some email exchanges between Randy Levine and Alex Rodriguez late last week as part of their big A-Rod feature. Apparently Levine, who is unwilling to fully type out “you” and “are,” frequently emailed Alex after games to offer words of encouragement, stuff like that. Oh, and he also once said Robinson Cano “needs some steroids fast!” He really said that. (Mike Puma says Levine claims it was a “bad joke.”)

    The whole MLB/Yankees vs. A-Rod spectacle is pretty much everything I hoped it would be. It’s completely chaotic and both sides look like total buffoons. I can’t believe a team president said his best player “needs some steroids fast!” in an email to another player. That’s hilarious.
    · (96) ·

Dec
30

Holiday Mailbag: Dean Anna

By in Mailbag. Tags: · Comments (42) ·
(San Diego Union-Tribune)

(San Diego Union-Tribune)

Jag asks: Is Dean Anna any good? I know he’s been a career minor leaguer, but his stats seem to be solid. Why didn’t the Padres hold onto him?

The Yankees acquired Anna from the Padres for Single-A reliever RHP Ben Paullus last month. San Diego had no room for Anna on their 40-man roster, so rather than potentially lose him for nothing in the Rule 5 Draft, they flipped him for a low level minor leaguer. The Yankees needed the infield depth, so here we are. The obligatory stats:

Year Age Tm Lev PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS HBP
2008 21 2 Teams A–Rk 181 30 35 3 0 5 24 11 1 21 31 .232 .341 .351 .692 5
2009 22 2 Teams A–A 239 31 56 15 1 5 31 7 6 30 41 .280 .380 .440 .820 4
2010 23 Fort Wayne A 272 42 61 14 2 6 32 5 1 39 40 .271 .381 .431 .813 3
2011 24 2 Teams AA-A+ 423 70 96 28 3 5 41 5 0 60 41 .277 .391 .419 .810 8
2012 25 San Antonio AA 510 75 115 16 3 10 47 6 4 66 76 .271 .377 .393 .770 11
2013 26 Tucson AAA 583 90 165 38 5 9 73 3 7 61 65 .331 .410 .482 .892 11
6 Seasons 2208 338 528 114 14 40 248 37 19 277 294 .286 .386 .428 .815 42
AA (2 seasons) AA 756 120 165 34 4 12 70 9 4 107 95 .265 .380 .390 .770 14
AAA (1 season) AAA 583 90 165 38 5 9 73 3 7 61 65 .331 .410 .482 .892 11
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/28/2013.

Anna, who turned 27 a few days after the trade, was the Padres’ 28th round pick in the 2008 draft out of Ball State, which isn’t exactly a baseball powerhouse. He hit .319/.464/.628 with 17 doubles, 11 homers, 46 walks, and 17 strikeouts in 52 games as a junior but was only ranked as the 14th best prospect in Indiana prior to the draft by Baseball America (subs. req’d). Anna was never a highly regarded prospect and he’s had to earn his way up to Triple-A and onto the 40-man roster. Here’s a recent (as in right after the trade) scouting report from Baseball America (no subs. req’d):

Anna, drafted out of Ball State, is coming off his best pro season, winning the Pacific Coast League batting title while playing for Triple-A Tucson. He hit .331/.410/.482 and walked (61) almost as much as he struck out (65), a career-long trend. Anna lacks physicality and pop at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds and fits the utility profile as a lefthanded hitter. He’s played second base, shortstop and third base as well as the outfield corners, with a fringe-average arm and solid infield actions. He’s a reliable defender who made just 23 errors the last two seasons. He’s a below-average runner, the biggest hole in his utility profile. Anna has earned high marks in his career as a grinder and good teammate. He spent two weeks playing for Estrellas in the Dominican League but returned home after going 8-for-34 (.235) with four walks in nine games.

So what the Yankees have is an undersized 27-year-old middle infielder who has little power, doesn’t steal a ton of bases, isn’t a standout defender, and, until this past season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, hasn’t hit for a high average in pro ball. That’s … not much of a prospect at all. That’s a spare part. An up-and-down bench player. The 25th man on the roster. Sure, the K/BB ratio(s) is sexy but there is more to life than walks and strikeouts.

Now, that said, Anna is certaintly a useful piece to have lying around, especially for a team with a thin big league infield like the Yankees. He’s something like the 38th or 39th man on the 40-man roster and will open the year with Triple-A Scranton awaiting the call when someone inevitably gets hurt or plays themselves off the team. The various projection systems are quite bullish about Anna — Oliver (2.0 WAR), ZiPS (1.6 WAR), Steamer (0.4 WAR) — but that is always the case with high-walk, low-strikeout players. You could make a case that playing him at second over the old and so very injury prone Brian Roberts make sense.

The Yankees were going to fill their 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft deadline one way or the other — either with one of their minor league relievers or someone like Anna. They opted for Anna, who was easily available and filled a very obvious need (they had not yet signed Kelly Johnson at the time of the trade). Since only one (Tommy Kahnle) of their many relievers was taken in the Rule 5 Draft, it’s tough to argue with the decision. Anna is an interesting enough player but the odds of him contributing in a meaningful way at the MLB level are small. In fact, if he’s starting for the team at some point next year, it likely means something went very wrong.

Categories : Mailbag
Comments (42)
  • Cafardo: Austin Romine is “very much available”
    By

    Via Nick Cafardo: Austin Romine is “very much available” now that the Yankees have added Brian McCann. The team also has some upper level catching depth in Frankie Cervelli and J.R. Murphy. Cervelli figures to serve as McCann’s backup while Murphy is slated for Triple-A Scranton.

    Romine, 25, hit .207/.255/.296 (48 wRC+) with one homer in 148 plate appearances as Chris Stewart’s backup this past season. He never really showed much promise outside of a few weeks in late-July and early-August either. I’m in favor of keeping as much catching depth as possible — Cervelli isn’t exactly Mr. Durable and Murphy can use the regular playing time in Triple-A — but if some team wants to blow the Yankees out of the water with an offer for Romine, great. Pull the trigger. If not, hang onto him as long as possible.
    · (35) ·

2013 Season: 85-77 (637 RS, 671 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), didn’t qualify for playoffs

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Categories : Polls
Comments (33)

Hope everyone had a great Christmas, and for those of you don’t celebrate, I hope the last few days have been pretty awesome as well. Now that Masahiro Tanaka has been posted, there isn’t much baseball news out there right now. The hot stove always slows to a crawl around the holidays. I don’t think that’s a bad thing either. The break is nice.

Just a heads up, I’m planning to re-use this as the nightly open thread through the end of the weekend just because I suspect many of you have already started your weekends. Talk about whatever right here. Enjoy.

Categories : Open Thread
Comments (180)
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