You can say a lot about the Masahiro Tanaka saga, but the most important fact is this; it is almost over. The Japanese ace that has been holding the Major League Baseball offseason hostage has until Friday to sign with a team before his posting period expires, and with his signing, his stranglehold on the rest of the pitching market should finally relax.
That will be good news for a team like the Toronto Blue Jays, who have patiently waited for the Tanaka decision to unfold, so that they can figure out what their next move is. Whether that involves Tanaka appears to be the real mystery.
Last week, we heard reports that the Blue Jays were not truly involved in Tanaka, and in fact had not submitted a bid. Richard Griffin even lent credence to that rumor by openly stating that Tanaka and his agent Casey Close have “been conducting interviews with prospective employers in Los Angeles”.
However, wunderkind baseball insider Chris Cotillo noted that his “agent sources” have indicated that the “Jays are in for sure”. This makes much more sense than simply sitting it out, as even if it ends up as an unsuccessful bid, the PR blowback of not participating would be a tremendous set-back for the Blue Jays. Still, many doubt that Toronto will ultimately be able to make a case to lure Tanaka away from the glamour of Los Angeles or New York.
However, the decision will open up the rest of the market. The Blue Jays have been waiting for the price to come down on free agents and trade targets alike, and with a shortened signing window available for players now, that may play to their wishes. However, we are also in a post-Kershaw landscape now as well, and it will be interesting to see how agents spin their salary demands in the wake of Clayton Kershaw‘s monster deal late last week. No, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, or any other available pitcher for the matter, are not nearly on par with Kershaw, but we’ve already seen Santana’s agent attempt to spin him as Zack Greinke, so there is precedent for stupidity.
There is also the thought that the Blue Jays may be willing to move off of their stance a bit as their window shrinks as well. As Griffin stated in the aforementioned piece, the team is willing to part with a second-round pick as compensation for signing a free agent, as it will still hold two protected picks in the first round. That would seem to indicate that they will still make an effort to sign either Santana or Jimenez, both of whom have draft compensation tied to them.
Regardless, the real game is afoot and the Toronto Blue Jays will still be figuring into it, regardless of the outcome of Tanaka’s decision. It just comes down to how far they want to step forward that determines if anything further is accomplished this winter.