Who Wins the Masahairo Tanaka Sweepstakes?

Posted: 01/10/2014 by everythingishistory1066 in Baseball

One of the big remaining questions left in the MLB offseason is who lands outstanding Japanese pitching prospect Masahairo Tanaka? If you do not know who Tanaka is, this is a name you will not want to forget. Since he joined Nippon Professional Baseball in 2007 he has been a force. In his first 96 and 2/3 innings he had already recorded 100 strikeouts and in the process tied the NPB record for quickest to the accomplishment. During the same season he was voted starter of the Pacific League All-Star team. Tanaka became the first rookie, fresh out of high school, since Daisuke Matsuzaka in the 1999 season to have the honor of starting the NPB All Star Game. At season’s end he was named the Pacific League’s Most Valuable Rookie. Within in five years Tanaka had become the most dominant pitcher in Japanese Baseball. His best, and most likely, last season in the NPB came in 2013. He posted an astonishing 24-0 record and a dazzling 1.27 ERA, factoring in playoffs Tanaka finished with a 30-0 record.

His amazing ability has had MLB scouts salivating. At only 25 years old, the Japanese right hander has nowhere to go but up. The success of Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish, who played against Tanaka in Japan, gives scouts the notion they have a perennial Cy Young candidate on hand. The issue in this equation is money. In order to sign the young Japanese star, the team that wins the sweepstakes will have to pay his club the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, twenty million dollars. This sum does not include the larger contract he would most likely garner from his new Major League squad. Teams have until January 24th to post the twenty million dollar tag before the deadline expires and Tanaka continues his career in Japan rather than bring his talents across the Pacific. If he becomes a success he will join the ranks of Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Hideo Nomo and Yu Darvish as great Japanese players to make the jump from Japanese baseball to the Majors.
Here are some of the front-runners in the hunt for Tanaka’s services.

New York Yankees: No surprise here. It seems the Yankees are always in the mix for high priced, highly touted free agents. They are in need of help in their starting rotation. While C.C. Sabathia is still a good pitcher he is starting to decline a bit. However a Sabathia-Tanaka-Kuroda starting rotation could prove to be a potent group in a competitive AL East.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Tanaka would be an awesome addition to the D-Backs. Even though young stud Patrick Corbin had a rough second half the addition of another ace-like arm will go a long way in helping the D-Backs challenge the Dodgers for the NL West.

Chicago Cubs: General Manager Theo Epstein has yet to make a huge splash since coming over from the Red Sox a few years ago. I can’t think of a better way to pump some adrenaline into the North-Sider’s fan base than signing a potential franchise pitcher. Tanaka does plan on officially meeting with the Cubs in Chicago.

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners are rumored to be the front runner’s for Tanaka. Talk about an embarrassment of riches though, if they were able to sign him. Seattle would cap an off-season for the ages. Combined with the recent signing of Robinson Cano and the great rookie season of Hasashi Iwakuma and the always great Felix Hernandez the Mariners could very well take the AL West and make a deep playoff run.

Los Angeles Dodgers: If Tanaka ends up in Dodger blue, I think we just found the top contender for the World Series in the Majors this season. The reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and Tanaka could combine to become the most feared pitching combination in the Major Leagues. Not only that but a stacked lineup and deep pockets could make the Dodgers a viable suitor and a scary team in the 2014 season. The Dodgers and Tanaka’s representation have been discussing a face to face meeting.

Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles: Have had meetings with Tanaka’s representation as well.

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