Blue Jays Didn’t Change Course For Tanaka, And That’s Not Necessarily Bad


Dec 9, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos talks with reporters during the MLB Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

When it became known that Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka had made his decision, inking a 7-year, $155 million deal with the New York Yankees, there was a sizable groan from north of the border, but it seemed to be minimal considering another prize had slipped through Toronto’s fingers. However, things got a little heated later in the day when John Lott found a source to throw a bit of fuel on the fire.

In an afternoon post for the National Post, Lott hears from a source that the Blue Jays pulled out of the Tanaka bidding when the contract length started to exceed the club’s soft policy on long-term deals past five seasons. Further complicating matters, Toronto had no interest in extending Tanaka an opt-out clause after four seasons either. Understandably, the masses did not take kindly to the report.

However, while we can all sit here and grind our gears about the Blue Jays and their ridiculous stance of limiting free agent offers to five years or less, there is a bigger picture here. Years aside, the Blue Jays were never truly in this bidding. The Yankees, unburdened by Alex Rodriguez‘s contract for one season, were prepared to blow any team out of the water, and that is exactly what they did here.

At $22+ million a season, Masahiro Tanaka will be the most expensive question mark ever, having never thrown a pitch in Major League Baseball. Given the success rate of Japanese pitchers in the Major Leagues, that is a huge gamble to take, even for the Yankees, who have already had the albatrosses of Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa hung around their necks from taking a similar path. Would the Blue Jays have been able to weather that type of mistake?

No, Toronto took a path, that while it appears ugly for now, was the right move to make for the team, both present and future. They will plug their rotation hole(s) with one of the available free agents in Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, or maybe even a Bronson Arroyo, and they will hang on the hope that last year was the anomaly, that their team will play to the potential they thought they had a year ago.

And in the corner of his office, Alex Anthopoulos will stare out the window, casting the evil-eyed mojo toward New York City, waiting to see if Tanaka can possibly live up to the expectations if his contract. Can he possibly live up to being paid on par with Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, or even Zack Greinke?

Only time will tell, but those are awfully expensive seconds ticking away.