Toronto Blue Jays, Masahiro Tanaka, and Saving Face


Dec 11, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Rakuten Golden Eagles president Yozo Tachibana (right) walks through the lobby during the MLB Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Tachibana has not decided whether or not to allow Masahiro Tanaka (not pictured) to sign with a MLB team now that Nippon Professional Baseball and the MLB have agreed on a $20 Million maximum posting bid. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Late last night, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted (since removed) that the $20 million posting fee agreed upon by Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball is a godsend to some clubs. Since the amount is refundable to any team not winning the bid, any team can jump into the bidding and instantly buy themselves some instant publicity with fan bases eager to see their teams take a run at Masahiro Tanaka.

Well, any team except for the Toronto Blue Jays that is.

Go back two winters ago, when the Blue Jays were said to be serious contenders for Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish. The Blue Jays made a run at Darvish, but ultimately finished third a blind bid that ultimately saw Darvish land with the Texas Rangers for a $51.7 million posting feel and a 6-year, $60 million contract. Toronto finished with nothing but a bag of wind and fan remorse.

Jump back in the time machine and speed back to the present and the Blue Jays are again presented a chance to land the top import talent of the winter, and a meager $20 million posting fee should be more than feasible for the Jays to buy into party. Should Tanaka’s team, the Rakutan Golden Eagles, relent and allow their stud pitcher to post, the Blue Jays will certainly enter the bidding process.

But they need to do more than simply buy publicity, as the Darvish failure wasn’t the kind of publicity that the Blue Jays want to garner. Simply buying in won’t solve the problems the Blue Jays currently have on the mound. If they enter the arena, they need to do so with the intention of bringing home Tanaka.

To do that, there is going to be some change needed.

As we saw with the Darvish signing a few years back, and from what we’ve seen thus far this winter, Toronto’s team philosophy of no contracts beyond five years won’t get the job done. The current market is not allowing for teams to short-change even the most remotely talented pitchers (see Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco, etc). The 2014 free agent class is bringing in contracts that any other year would seem ludicrous for pitchers of this caliber.

Likewise, Masahiro Tanaka sees what’s going on. He knows that he’s the cream of the crop and that teams are waiting for him to post before moving on to options B, C, and D. Tanaka also recognizes what a $20 million posting fee means; more cash on the barrel head for him and his deal.

As the tweeter above mentions, Tanaka isn’t going into this posting process with the thought that he’s going to take a five-year deal. Nor will he settle for the 6-year, $60 million deal Darvish got or the 6-year, $52 million Daisuke Matsuzaka settled for with the Red Sox. Those deals were hampered by the $50-plus million posting fees attached to them. Tanaka doesn’t have that worry.

If the Blue Jays are serious about contending for Tanaka, they have to not only win the battle of the paycheck, with a deal likely north of six years and $100 million, but they also have to show Tanaka that Toronto is a viable market for his talents. The Blue Jays have to prove that they are a championship-caliber squad and that Tanaka will seal that fate. They have to show him that Toronto can be a marketable environment on par with New York or Los Angeles.

To do that, they need to move past lip service and put their money on the table, and if they lose, they need to be transparent with what they put on the table. Fans will understand a competent, yet losing bid as long as the team shows it was serious in the first place.

Anything else is just bad publicity.