Yesterday was the first day in a 30 day posting period, that Japanese pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka, will be able to be bid on by MLB clubs, and essentially purchased by one.
Whichever team ultimately pays Tanaka, will not only likely shell out over $100 million to Tanaka, but also a $20 million posting fee to the Rakuten Golden Eagles, his Japanese team. So his services aren’t going to come cheaply.
$100 million might not mean what it once did in the MLB, but $100 at this point in the off-season (when many teams have already dolled out large sums of money to free-agents) is a lot. So when the New York Post’s Joel Sherman broke down the biggest competition for Tanaka, to the favorite New York Yankees, he listed the usual suspects. And contrary to where they were just 15 years ago, the Phillies are now one of baseball’s elite annual spenders, and high on the list.
There are many Yankee-esque qualities here – notably the presence of an older/declining core and worry about holding the attention of a Northeast fan base that has come to expect stars and winning. There are many failings around the diamond, but a rotation headed by Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Tanaka would make up for a lot of sins while possibly re-energizing that fan base.
I don’t disrespect the talent level in Japan, but despite going 24-0 last season with a 1.27 ERA, I don’t like the idea of the Phillies giving out another $100 plus contract to someone who has never pitched in the MLB. $100 deal days are over for a while.
You also have to ask yourself, is another front-end starter really what the Phillies need? They have two elite starters in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick locked into a rotation spot (barring a trade), and then Jonathan Pettibone, Miguel Gonzalez, and Roberto Hernandez competing for the last two rotation spots. That doesn’t sound like a bad rotation to me.
Signing Tanaka doesn’t fix the Phillies bullpen, or make Ryan Howard stay healthy. If Jonathan Papelbon can have a bounce-back year and Ryan Howard can have a return good health and being some sort of factor against lefties, then the Phillies may be able to compete in 2014. Obviously that is in short terms, because Jimmy Rollins needs to produce, Dom Brown needs to continue to develop, Chase Utley needs to stay healthy, and they need to be able to get the ball to Jonathan Papelbon.
I’m sure Tanaka will get at least $100 million, but it doesn’t have to be from the Phillies. The Phillies aren’t in a position to sign another expensive pitcher. Ruben Amaro chose the route of trying to compete for one more season. Do I think that is realistic? Most likely not. But the Phillies can give it a go with the roster they have, and if not, they can (hopefully) begin a rebuilding process. In neither of those scenarios do the Phillies need to sign another pitcher to a six or seven year deal worth over $17 million per season.