Yankee fans these days are a predictable bunch. As soon as the Red Sox do something — anything — they flip out and, of course, blame Brian Cashman.
In response, a RAB commenter Bryan left this gem:
I cant believe that the Yanks didn’t offer Junichi Tazawa a contract, now MLB rumors is speculating that he has already decided on the sox. It seems stupid that we should miss out on a 22 year old just because Cashman has some moral issue with the Japanese league! I tell you one thing, we better get Yu Darvish when posting time is up.
It is hard to believe that Cashman should shoulder the blame for the fact that the Red Sox are the first team to offer Tazawa a contract. Never mind the fact that the Yankees could still get involved. Never mind the fact that the Red Sox haven’t actually done anything. And never mind the fact that Tazawa might not even be that good.
Wait a sec, you might be saying. Isn’t the bunch on Tazawa that he’s supposed to be some Major League-ready 22-year-old stud? Not quite.
Over the weekend, Jim Allen, a Japan-based sportswriter who has actually, you know, seen these guys pitch, offered up some scouting reports on the less-than-impressive Japanese free agents, including Tazawa. He hardly had impressive things to say about the youngster:
Tazawa, who stands 5 feet, 10 inches — “5-11 if you really like him,” Wilson said — will get a major league deal this winter but is unlikely to make it to the majors during that first season.
He has good command of his fastball and slurve, but he lacks velocity, stamina and the ability to keep the ball down. The talk of a deal worth as much as $4 million is testimony not to Tazawa’s talent, but to the soaring appreciation of Japan’s game…The right-hander would have gone in the first round of Nippon Professional Baseball’s recent draft, but that is a long way from being ready for the majors.
At 22, Tazawa is unlikely to throw much harder than he does now; his fastball barely tops 90 mph when he is rested, and he struggled to hit 88 mph at the end of last season. In Class A or Double-A, Tazawa likely will get hit harder and harder as the season wears on.
Because he knows what he’s doing against corporate league hitters here, there is a chance Tazawa will make adjustments, although [Isao] Ojimi is a skeptic. The Mets scout believes the pitcher’s body is too stiff to allow him to keep the ball down in the zone and Tazawa lacks the smarts and toughness to hang in and learn the lessons needed to apply his talent in the majors.
For what it’s worth, East Windup Chronicle, another on-the-scenes site, echoes Allen’s less-than-glowing endorsement.
So there you have it; a few writers who actually have seen Tazawa pitch aren’t that impressed. He frankly sounds like another Kei Igawa to me who will be in way over his head in the minors. Japan’s industrial league is a far, far cry from the Majors.
As the Hot Stove heats up, we can’t lose sight of objectivity. If Cashman isn’t too keen on ruining the Yanks’ relationships with the other Japanese teams, perhaps it’s because the potential free agent just isn’t that good, and when writers on the scene say that, I’m inclined to believe them.