To repeat the question posed by the title of this post: Did AA say the Jays would bid for Tanaka?
The Globe and Mail certainly thinks so. To wit, from Tom Maloney’s piece on the Jays’ tough off-season, and the GM’s lengthy chat with the media yesterday:
Prior to the game, Anthopoulos reasserted the goal of strengthening the rotation with a front-of-the-line pitcher via trade or free agency. He followed in a television broadcast by acknowledging the club will bid for Masahiro Tanaka, a 24-year-old free agent from Japan’s Pacific League.
Thing is, though, unless Anthopoulos was on another TV broadcast, and not just the one with Buck and Pat, uh… that’s not quite what happened– or, at least, that’s not how I heard it.
Anthopoulos spoke with Tabler and Martinez in the top of yesterday’s fourth inning, and when the Globe piece came out, I and several people on Twitter certainly raised our eyebrows that his comments would be reported as such. I hit up my trusty MLB.TV to catch a (since removed?) replay of the broadcast, and what I heard after Buck asked, “Are the Blue Jays in a position to get involved with Tanaka?”, was this (plus some insignificant rambling I’ve removed):
I think we are. … We’ve certainly gone over there and scouted him. … We’d definitely be in a position to do something. Ultimately it comes down to a post and how it all works out, but he’s someone that is definitely going to be one of the impact starters.
I don’t think there’s a confirmation that they will be bidding in there. Maybe the fact that he starts talking about the posting system implies it– he certainly doesn’t say that they won’t– but I’m pretty sure he just seems to say that they’re in a position where that would be an option. Which is great! The GM saying, basically, that he thinks he’ll have the financial resources to go after a pitcher who might– as Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times suggests– cost upwards of $25-million just to talk to. Or more, even. And then they’d have to get him under contract for at least that much, if the deals to guys like Yu Darvish or Daisuke Matsuzaka are any indication.
And those deals both came before the latest infusion of national TV money that has fuelled insanity like the Giants’ recent Hunter Pence extension. So we’re probably talking way more money than just that!
It would be a gamble, of course. Any huge contract always will be. But Anthopoulos doesn’t have a whole lot of choice, as he seems to have fallen exactly into the trap that I’ve written for years that he appeared smart enough to avoid, failing with his first big payroll increase and creating the need to throw good money after bad in order to save his job. I don’t think Alex is quite in that kind of imminent peril yet, but it’s a big, big off-season for him, and he’s got to do something.
Should that something be Tanaka? As I’ve said before, I’m not so sure. A couple weeks ago I noted that changes to the posting system may be coming, which would take away the Jays’ natural advantage by allowing the player to choose from competing bids (*COUGH* shouldhavegotDarvish *COUGH*). I also noted that Tanaka’s “numbers are gaudy, but let’s not forget that they’re gaudy numbers in a league where Munenori Kawasaki was twice named among the ‘Best Nine’ and sports a career .294 average and .345 OBP (he’s at .214 and .301 as a big leaguer).”
And while Tanaka’s third straight season of a sub-two ERA– it currently sits at 1.23– is impressive, as is the low walk rate (27 in 190 innings), it’s the ability to strike guys out that separates Darvish from his countryman, and some other red flags to be wary of as well.
In his final year in Japan, Darvish struck out 276 in 232 innings, while Tanaka has struck out just 163 batters in 190 innings this season. He was, however, closer to a strikeout per inning last season (169 in 173) and was better than that in 2011 (241 in 226.1). That maybe suggests this year’s low total is a blip, but it also is a little troubling, especially given the number of innings on Tanaka’s young arm. He turns 25 on November 1st, and has logged 1293 innings since 2007, which is more than all but eighteen big league pitchers, none of whom is within two years of Tanaka’s young age. (Felix Hernandez is two years older, while the next-closest of the 18, Matt Cain, is four years older).
That said, there are red flags on everyone available. Matt Garza has cracked 200 innings only twice, and has made just 42 starts over his last two years; Ervin Santana costs a draft pick (though the Jays two first-rounders are protected) and preceded his fantastic 2013 with a 5.16 ERA in 2012 while pitching in a friendly park; Hiroki Kuroda is getting older, sputtered a bit at the end of the year, will also cost a draft pick, and probably is more interested in New York or L.A.; A.J. Burnett looks like he wants to stay in Pittsburgh (unfortunately); and Josh Johnson… well… we saw how badly that could go.
Trading for a pitcher of the quality of those guys at their best means taking a few more sledgehammer swings at the prospect pipeline, or blowing a hole in the offence by moving a big league contributor, so I’d say that counts as a giant red flag, too.
Alex has just got to trust his scouting department, I guess. Maybe not exactly a comforting thought given their record of late, huh?