Source: USA TODAY
The wait for Masahiro Tanaka may be over – or more accurately, postponed for at least a year.
According to The New York Times, which cited reports in Japanese newspapers, the ace right-hander won’t be posted this offseason by his team, the league champion Rakuten Golden Eagles. That would dash the hopes of several major league clubs, who looked at Tanaka as potentially the top pitcher in the free agent market.
Tanaka, who earned Pacific League MVP honors in going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in a historic season, had requested this week to be posted so he could pursue a career in the majors. However, he’s under team control for two more seasons, and the new agreement between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball limits the amount the Golden Eagles can receive for him to $20 million.
Former Japanese pitching stars Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka fetched posting fees of more than $50 million each.
Thursday’s reports are the latest – but perhaps not final – twist in the Tanaka posting saga, which essentially boils down to Rakuten having little leverage in the situation beyond accepting a flat posting fee or holding onto its greatest star.
Should teams take Rakuten’s signals at face value, it may unclog the market for free agent starting pitchers, which had been held up as teams waited to find out about his status. The New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels were among the teams believed to be most interested in Tanaka.
They may now shift their attention to the likes of right-handers Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, regarded as the top available starters.
The 30-year-old Garza, who went a combined 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA for the Chicago Cubs and Rangers last season, holds a significant advantage in that he’s not tied to draft-pick compensation. Both Santana and Jimenez rejected qualifying offers of more than $14 million for one year, so the teams that sign them will have to forfeit a high draft pick.
Santana, 31, lowered his ERA by nearly two runs to 3.24 in his one season with the Kansas City Royals. Though his record was just 9-10, he threw 211 innings and had a 1.14 WHIP, the second best mark in his career.
Jimenez, who turns 30 in January, has been the picture of inconsistency since starting the All-Star Game in 2010. He finally regained his old form in the second half of this past season with the Cleveland Indians, registering a 1.82 ERA after the break to finish at 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA.