Free Agent Forecast: Masahiro Tanaka
It's safe to say that there is only one pitcher on the market that went 24-0 last season…and that's Masahiro Tanaka. He's only 25 years old and has 99 career wins in Japan with an ERA of only 2.30. He's been said to be the best pitcher available in Japan, and many have compared him to the Rangers' Yu Darvish. Both have good fastballs and devastating splitters.
The only roadblock in negotiations between Tanaka and the Yankees is the posting process, which is currently being negotiated by Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball. It's been reported that the agreement between the two sides may not occur until the middle of December, but once that is done, the bidding will begin for the services of the Japanese right-hander.
The Yankees' interest is, in a word, high. With CC Sabathia's ineffectiveness in 2013 and Andy Pettitte AND Hiroki Kuroda's possible retirements, there are plenty of holes to fill in the Yankees rotation. While it's very possible that the Yankees have a bad taste in their mouth after signing Kei Igawa a few years back, Tanaka is known as much more of a sure thing. While scouts have said he's not quite at Darvish's level, they rank him above Kuroda…who has been fantastic for the Yankees in the last two seasons and has excelled in the hard-hitting AL East. Once this posting system is settled, the Yankees and Dodgers expect to be the most aggressive teams in the market for Tanaka.
Even though the posting system has yet to be figured out, I don't see any reason why it won't be. Once it is, the Dodgers and Yankees will likely go head-to-head. I expect the Yankees to prevail, mostly because of how badly they need him. The Dodgers have depth in the rotation that the Yankees don't have, and I expect that to make Brian Cashman more aggressive and more likely to get a deal done. I don't think Tanaka will get as big of a contract as Darvish got, but I could see the Yankees giving him something in the four-year, $35-$40 million range.