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?

Comments (70)

  1. That’s why AA makes the big bucks, I guess – to roll the dice with Rogers’ money….and hope the guy he gets doesn’t shit the bed (COUGH,Johnson,COUGH).

    • What do you care what he does with Rogers money? Its not your bank account.

      • Ugh, so tired of this line. People care because if it’s money poorly spent it sinks the team into a deeper hole and keeps them from spending money again.

        • You know what I’m sick of? Monday morning pearl clutchers wringing their hands about Anthopoulos because he made a calculated gamble that didn’t pan out. Well that’s life folks. You make the best decisions you can and hope fortune smiles on you. Should Anthopoulos have acted like a timid shrew when the chance to compete came his way? Give me a break. Sometimes things don’t go your way — kicking someone when they’re down doesn’t make it any better.

      • I’m paying the player’s salaries with my cable bill

        • Then you must watch too much TV and Rogers must be running the be shitty at making money off of baseball. Dumbass.

      • It may not be our money any more, but I spend a fuck of a lot on cable and tickets and merch and food and…they got it from SOMEWHERE, y’know.
        Some people also that think that governments’ money also falls from thin air – every buck that Rogers got came from our pockets, so let’s leave the people alone that expect more for those bucks.

  2. This team hurts me so much. Screw being a Toronto sports fan. We have the Argos, I guess.

  3. Yep ive said for a while now tanaka’s k/9 in japan is a red flag. An ace should be able to strike out more hitters in japan (like darvish). Doesnt mean that tanaka is going to be a bad mlb pitcher, just unlikely to be the top end type the jays need.

    • maybe he will throw a no-hitter against the best offense in baseball, all the while not striking anyone out until the 6th inning…

    • Not necessarily. The approach in Japanese is very contact driven. For every Arencibia or Rasmus type player they have about 50 kawasakis who foul off 10 pitches every time they come up.

    • On the plus side, he doesn’t walk anybody or give up home runs. This is particularly notable since Japanese league officials fessed up to introducing a juiced baseball (hello Wladimir Balentien!) this season. Tanaka managed to keep his HR/9 rate at an excellent 0.3.

      • The entire ‘juiced ball’ thing has been overblown/misunderstood. The number of home runs being hit this year is actually closer to the number that were hit before the NPB introduced the “unified ball” for the 2011 season.

        The “unified ball” introduced for the 2011 season was supposed to be closer to what’s used in MLB, but there was a dramatic decrease in the number of homers being hit. In the 2009 NPB season there were 1534 homers hit, and in 2010, there were 1605 home runs. In the first year of the unified ball (2011), there were only 939 homers, and last year it was down to 881 HR’s. Balentien hit 31 homers in each of the last two season off the less homer-prone ball, and he’s steadily improved his game in each of his NPB seasons (improved average, OBP, OPS, etc). He’s just really good right now.

        • Thanks for the info – cheers! My reference to Balentien was not meant to be a drive by sneer although I can see how someone could infer that. In fact, I’ve adopted the Yakult Swallows as my NPB team since I got a chance to see them play at Jingu Stadium when I was Japan a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, he didn’t hit a home run during that game. However, during the seventh inning stretch fans were treated to a full fireworks display. How awesome is that?!? BTW, my impressions of Japanese baseball (based on an admittedly miniscule sample size) is that the pitchers like to throw a lot of slop (and fastballs topped out at 88-89) and the defence was brutal on both sides (the Dragons in this case). It makes Tanaka’s NPB numbers even more curious.

  4. Another interesting tidbit in there: “The first step toward attaining Tanaka is purely financial; thereafter, Kawasaki could be useful as a club ambassador in their negotiations with Tanaka.”

    • bleh. Maybe true.
      But maybe Tanaka thinks Kawasaki is a nutcase and hates his guts… or more likely doesn’t have a fucking clue who he even is.. Not all Japanese dudes are friends with each other.

      I’m going to give that tidbit an IMW ranking of “just barely interesting”.

      • 8× NPB All-Star (2004–2011)
        2× Best Nine Award (2004, 2006)
        2× Golden Glove Award (2004, 2006)
        2004 PL stolen base leader

        Played on the national team 3 times (2 WBC and 1 Olympics)

        He’s not a nobody. Tanaka will know who he is. Not saying that it’ll help but he would at least be a familiar name.

  5. Sushi Boners galore

  6. Tanaka’s relatively low, and declining, k-rate is my big concern.

    But on the other hand, Tanaka’s K-rate is not all that different than Ryu’s k-rate in a league with lesser competition (Korean), and Ryu seems to be doing fine this year with the Dodgers.

    We don’t need Tanaka to be an ace, just adding a number two or three would be nice. It isn’t like their is any aces on the open market this off-season anyways.

  7. AA has been silent since his visit to Japan to see Tanaka, only pressed over the weekend did he make any comment on this pitcher. Remember he was called the ‘Silent Assassin.’ I am sure he has learned even more so to hide any of his potential decisions after this past season. The media in this town will and does destroy anyone who tries to hide any wheeling and dealing in sports.

    Someone also asked if Kawasaki would return and the answer given was yes with the proviso at least he would be in the organisation.

  8. Hey stoeten,
    do you think AA needs to take risks, after the “safe” route of last years trades realitively to their track records or does he go after the best players?

  9. They’re not going to get him. Nothing to see here. It’s Darvish II.

  10. Sign this guy and sign Ervin Santana…

  11. I’m kinda hoping we don’t go this route. Too many red flags already to deal with the international posting bs. I don’t know how much of a stomach I have for high-risk signings/moves I have after watching 2013 unfold.

    My only hope is that the next Catcher doesn’t shame the team like this year’s version did. Someone who is not the worst-ever offensive producer in live-ball history as a regular and capable of not causing drama in the media, would be just swell

  12. I love the offseason! So much hope!

  13. Take whatever we can get for colby and janssen and move it for sale or a similar controllable but about to get expensive potential ace. i’ll take a gose/pillar platoon in center. such a move would also free up some salary to spend on a catcher through f.a. or trade.

    • Not so sure the jays have what it takes to get sale

    • Sale has been great and all, but not sure I would take a 5 WAR CFer that looks to be just starting to figure it out and that plays every day and replace him with a replacement level CFer just to get a pitcher that throws every five days and has mechanics that suggest his arm is bound to explode. I know Sale’s WAR was 7 by BR this year, but still. Call me old fashion but I don’t see the point replacing an all-star level player that plays every day with an all-star level player that plays every five days.

  14. Hey how much can we really worry about k’s with a W-L like that and an ERA like that?

    Before you jump on me as an ignorant “W-L follower”, all I mean is that maybe he didn’t worry about striking guys out that much when he’s winning and no one can score anyway.

    • Nonsense.

      • You just brought up all the innings he has pitched. That really isn’t the true concern – it is total pitches (pitch count) thrown that adds up to wear and tear (plus how hard you throw maybe or how much you torque your arm throwing certain pitches).

        I’m usually the last person to buy Jack Morris Pitching (TM) methods or any such narratives… but these stats are emphatically in the outlier area. If you can go 20-0 and have an ERA of 1 while “pitching to contact” why wouldn’t you?

        I just don’t see the nonsense. You’re up 6 runs to nothing and facing a weak batter in this weaker league. Why spend 6 pitches setting him up for a k if he’ll probably hit a weak grounder at best?

  15. If the Red Sux have taught me anything this season, its that it is entirely possible that next year the Jays could be good and it might not take the home run swings we’re all calling for.

    Yes the Jays could use a top end starter, a catcher who provides league average offense and defense and someone at least passable at 2nd – but who out there thought that the Sox had solved all of their problems going into this season?

    The fact is that the Jays offseason problems could already be largely solved if they have a healthy Melky Cabrera, a decent season cobbled together by Kawasaki, Goins and De Rosa at 2nd, and the healthy return of Brendan Morrow.

    The Red Sox in 2012 had just about nothing go their way. Anyone they counted on shit the bed or got hurt. And while they did tinker in the offseason, adding some pretty valuable pieces in hind-sight – none of the additions were of the scale or cost that we have all convinced ourselves is needed for the 2014 Jays. I’m not saying that I would avoid free agency, but a full season with a little injury luck would go a LONG way to changing the outcomes for this team. There is a reason that people outside of Toronto expected big things from this team. Fuck, even a healthy below average season from Josh Johnson would have contributed a lot.

  16. I’ve given up hope on this team SIGNING (not trading for) any player of real significance.


  18. On the flipside, Hisashi Iwakuma’s numbers over there were thoroughly mediocre all the way through age 30 when he made the jump. And while his ERA might be a little misleading, he’s still a pretty damn fine big league pitcher.

  19. It’s only cash so I say give it to’er

  20. Classic bait and switch. Alex Guerrero come on down.

  21. I say sign Justin verlander this winter no matter what the cost. I’d like your guys opinion but I think he is exactly what this team needs.

    • I’d bust your balls over this comment but we all know they’re too small a target after all the steroids.

      • Verlander is signed through 2019 so no….

        If they can get Tanaka for even 30 million posting (up to say 40 million tops). and 5 years you pay a total of 30-35 million. 30-35 +30-40 tops would be between 60- 75 million total. Well Johnson cost 13.75 this year and 14 million for next year. Buerhle cost 18 and 19 million over the next two years. Happ will get 5.2 million next year, and Romero 7.5 million for a combined 12.7 so you have a combined 12.7 million for a # 6 pitcher combined. Well if he costs a total of 60 -75 that would average of 12-15 million. 12 million When you think of it that way for a 2 or 3 is fair. And if he worse case scenarios costs 15 million avg, and it pitches like a number 4 with the cash infusion from network tv we could see avg pitchers making 10 million.

  22. rather see Tanaka than Jenkins/Hutchinson/Happ

  23. Hyun Jin Ryu did just fine his first year round the show. Not saying they’re similar type pitchers or anything, but the KBO is definitely a lesser talent pool. A league where HEE SEOP CHOI (formerly of the cubs, marlins, dodgers) wins the MVP. I think Tanaka could do just fine. At worst (just guessing) another Mark Buerlhe type that’ll eat you 200 innnigs with low 4ish ERA at best a solid #2. All it costs is money. Pretty good track record of staying healthy too. I know Tanaka most likely isn’t happening but one can still wish….

  24. I wish I was 19 so I could suffer some more in my 20s

  25. [...] versus the Tampa Bay Rays, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos mentioned that he thinks they are in a good position to get involved with Tanaka. He anticipates that Tanaka will be the most sought after free agent in the upcoming off-season. [...]

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