Masahiro Tanaka‘s negotiating window is nearly closed. The new posting system allows Tanaka to sign with any team, not just the daring club that ponied up the most money for a bid.
Tanaka and his agent Casey Close recently met with a handful of big league clubs, shaking hands and listening to impassioned speeches regarding the future of Club X. There are the obvious favorites yet nobody really knows where he’ll go. Except me.
Using the powers of deduction, both journalism and Journalism, savvy, mathematics, and no small amount of telepathy, I know where Tanaka signs. Or he is most likely to sign.
This is what we know about Masahiro Tanaka’s criteria for choosing a playing home. Bob Elliot of the Toronto Sun wrote the following this week:
“Tanaka wants to go to a World Series, wants a city where his family will feel at home since they don’t speak English. He has a desire to be on a team with potential to win and loves the pressure.”
Let’s use this “information” and judge each team on their merit, using our (read: my) interpretation of these stated goals.
Putting that into buckets, let’s interpret his interests as: desirability, compatibility, industry juice, competitiveness. Add something I call the Reality Index on the backend because rooting in reality is what you look for in an internet list full of arbitrary designations.
Legend: Team name, total score, scoring breakdown (desirability, compatibility, industry juice, competitiveness, Reality Index)
- Tampa Bay Rays, 8 (1, 1, 1, 4, 0)
- Colorado Rockies, 8 (2, 2, 2, 2, 0)
- Chicago White Sox, 8 (1, 3, 1, 2, 1)
- New York Mets, 9 (3, 1, 2, 2, 1)
- Minnesota Twins, 9 (1, 5, 1, 1, 1)
- Miami Marlins, 10 (1, 5, 1, 1, 2)
- Milwaukee Brewers, 10 (2, 3, 2, 2, 1)
- Cleveland Indians, 12 (1, 3, 3, 3, 1)
- Baltimore Orioles, 12 (2, 4, 2, 2, 2)
- Kansas City Royals, 13 (2, 4, 2, 3, 2)
Tanaka seems unlikely to accept a four-year contract with nine years of options tacked on the end. He is also neither a convicted criminal nor a pariah so Tampa Bay just ain’t happening. The Mets did their spending, the Rockies need someone a little…hardier? The Brewers are a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in bacon and deep fried. Your guess is as good as mine.
The Marlins are easy to dismiss as they are the cheapest team in baseball would rather fold than spend $20mm just to sign a free agent. Which is exactly what makes them so dangerous. Perfectly fits their #2015 plan for temporary world domination. Darkest horse – watch out.
The Twins have a bright future and could use some more high-end pitching help but, after a busy offseason, they spent an unimaginable amount of money on the most ordinary pitching staff in the league. Probably a little gun shy after their last foray into the NBP.
The Royals, Indians, and Orioles might be competitive in their own right but finances and reality keep them from pursuing Tanaka with any real vigor. The White Sox are in the middle of a smart rebuild but ain’t nobody want to play for the Pale Hose right now.
- Washington Nationals, 13 (2, 2, 5, 3, 1)
- Pittsburgh Pirates, 13 (2, 3, 3, 4, 1)
- Cincinnati Reds, 14 (2, 4, 3, 4, 1)
- St. Louis Cardinals, 14 (3, 1, 5, 5, 0)
- Detroit Tigers, 15 (1, 3, 5, 5, 1)
- Philadelphia Phillies, 15 (3, 4, 4, 2, 2)
- Oakland A’s, 15 (3, 3, 3, 4, 2)
- Atlanta Braves, 15 (2, 4, 4, 5, 0)
- San Diego Padres 15, (5, 5, 1, 1, 3)
- San Francisco Giants, 17 (5, 3, 4, 3, 2)
- Boston Red Sox, 18 (5, 3, 5, 5, 0)
These are mostly self-explanatory. Good teams without a great deal of money to spend or desire to get away from their currently successful model of player development. Teams like the Tigers and Phillies would probably love to get their hands on Tanaka but their finances seem like a barrier.
Also the San Diego Padres, who have a lot going for them except a desire to create a successful baseball product.
- Toronto Blue Jays, 17 (2, 5, 3, 4, 3)
- Houston Astros, 16 (1, 5, 4, 1, 5)
- Seattle Mariners, 18 (4, 4, 3, 3, 4)
There is glint of desperation to all the Hopeful clubs. Teams that could use the services of a pitcher like Mashahiro Tanaka. Teams that would roll out the red carpet and show him the time of his life.
But there are enough red flags that a choosy customer like Tanaka might just glide on by. The Blue Jays have more strikes against than points in favor thanks to their division, playing surface, location, and lack of industry jam. The Astros might have many of the pieces in place but can only wonder what the current state of their big league product does to their marketability.
There is no team more desperate than the Mariners. They want it and they want it bad. But do they have the talent to deliver playoff performances during the early part of any long-term contract? They have the location working for them and a strong connection to Japan but, realistically, is that enough?
- Arizona Diamondbacks, 19 (4, 4, 3, 4, 4)
- Chicago Cubs, 20 (3, 5, 4, 3, 5)
- Texas Rangers, 21 (5, 3, 5, 4, 4)
- Los Angeles Angels, 21 (5, 5, 4, 3, 4)
These teams really, really want to get Masahiro Tanaka in their mix. They need him and they want him. They either have the money (Texas) or the desperation (Angels) mixed with the savvy and the location. Arizona sounds very serious about doing what they can to sign Tanaka. Which is all well and good but is not likely to matter in the end.
The Angels are unafraid to throw good money after bad, reside on the West Coast and have the best player in the game to pimp out as proof of their competitiveness. Their owner is motivated and/or reckless and meddling, the perfect mix for a shock signing.
Does the presence of Yu Darvish help or hurt the Rangers chances to land Tanaka? The eugenically minded might disagree that two Japanese superstars on the same team works in the Rangers favor. Texas’ front office is unafraid to make huge splashes but do they have another big splash in them?
The Cubs are a wildcard but I feel like they might be a underrated player in the Tanaka sweepstakes. They’re well positioned to turn their rebuild into high gear, storming the NL Central with money and the know-how of Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein. Though the promise of getting better isn’t as good tangible results in the past few seasons.
The Yankees, East & West
- New York Yankees, 23 (5, 5, 5, 4, 4)
- Los Angeles Dodgers, 24 (5, 4, 5, 5, 5)
Consensus in Japan right now is that Yankees and Dodgers are favorites on Tanaka and word is his wife prefers to be on West Coast.
— David Waldstein (@DavidWaldstein) January 13, 2014
Let’s not kid each other here. The writing is on the wall. Just sit back and wait for the inevitable. Let it wash over you like a river of small market tears.
Reports suggest the Dodgers will not be outbid. Reality suggests the Dodgers will not be outbid. The location can’t be matched and they possess an extremely competitive roster. They’re the New Money Millionaires of the baseball world. Phase two can wait until after they win a World Series.
The Yankees might not have the cash to get under the now-mythical $189 million number but the only numerology that matters in the Bronx is 28 – the next World Series title they win is their 28th. The quote-unquote Alex Rodriguez windfall frees up some money but they’re still dangerously close to the luxury tax. Which would matter more if they weren’t the Yankees. Which they are. Which is why they cannot be counted out.
In other words, it’s Dodgers and Yankees or bust. Surely another team can jump up and snatch the brass ring but how many destinations outside of New York and Los Angeles seem even plausible. None, that’s how many. The new MLB, same as the old. Same as it ever was, really.
(H/T to Moshe, as he was the first one to #TANAK)