Earlier this week, we heard through our neighbors at Blue Jays Plus and their sources that the Toronto Blue Jays were heavily in play on posted Japanese hurler Masahiro Tanaka. That was good news to many Blue Jays fans who feel the team should make more than a concerted effort to land the prized free agent.
However, a little bit of air can be let out of those sails.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that Tanaka’s representatives are ramping up the process and are scheduling meetings with several teams, including the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, and Arizona Diamondbacks. Not included in that preliminary list are the Toronto Blue Jays.
That said, it is not completely disheartening, as Heyman reports the Blue Jays have had “multiple discussions with team Tanaka”, but he was unable to confirm if they have scheduled a meeting with Tanaka and Casey Close.
Tanaka remains the key for many teams looking to improve their pitching staffs this winter. The 25-year-old right-hander went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 7.8 K/9 ratio over 212 innings for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013. Over the last three seasons in Japan, Tanaka is 53-9 with a 1.44 ERA over that span. Both his age (25) and his low posting fee of $20 million are reason enough to project that Tanaka will earn a contract in excess of $100 million, and many teams will be lined up to give it to him.
However, Tanaka’s influence is reaching further than just the dozen or so teams looking to land him. The fates of Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Matt Garza all hang in the balance, as the players and teams alike are waiting out the Tanaka signing to determine demand and price for their services as well. The Blue Jays have been tied to both Jimenez and Santana in the past, and could turn towards them if they fall out of the bidding for Tanaka.
With R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, and J.A Happ pencilled in right now, the Blue Jays are still looking to add at least one starter, but would like to net two to garner improvement and protect against injury again in 2014. Outside of additions, Toronto also has Kyle Drabek, Sean Nolin, Marcus Stroman, Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, and Drew Hutchison in the mix.
As of this time, the heavy-spending Yankees and Dodgers are considered the favorites for Tanaka, but both have completely different needs for their rotation.
The Dodgers are already solid with their front five, having Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, Josh Beckett, and Chad Billingsley in the mix. However, health concerns are still circling both Beckett and Billingsley, and the Dodgers could stand to make an upgrade over both.
The Yankees are a different story. Outside of a declining C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova, the remainder of the Yankees rotation remains a mystery and is considered a huge weakness in a tough division. Adding Tanaka would be big for the Bombers, as they have the huge hole, but it could be big for Tanaka as well, playing on the game’s biggest stage.
The Tanaka sweepstakes is just getting started, and the big guns are going to be unloading. Whether the Toronto Blue Jays and Rogers consider themselves among the big guns will remain to be seen. The competition will be heavy, let’s just see if they are in the game.