When the posting system went haywire and nobody knew if Masahiro Tanaka was going to make the jump to the US, or what it was going to cost a team to acquire him, I took a bit of comfort in being able to sit back and just let it happen. Somebody else’s problem. The White Sox weren’t mentioned as a team strongly pursuing and they had already made their offseason international splash by bringing in Jose Abreu. Now there is word that Tanaka is going to be stateside. Not just stateside but in Chicago, and with the expressed purpose of meeting with the Cubs and the White Sox. Well then.
— Luke Stuckmeyer (@LukeStuckmeyer) January 7, 2014
Is he a viable possibility? Tanaka is 25 years old and dominated the Japanese Pacific League last season presenting a 1.27 ERA and a 24-0 record. I’m not one to tout pitcher wins but for a guy to even have an opportunity to go 24-0 means that he’s not giving the other team much of a chance to win games. Fluke season? Not so much. Tanaka posted a murderous 1.87 ERA in 2012 and had another 1.27 in 2011.
The downside of his performance is that he’s been pitching in the league since 2007 when he was 18 years old, averaging about 188 innings over that time. Given his performance level, those innings may have been less stressful than your average pitcher’s but the total is alarming nonetheless. Japan’s Summer Koshien has gotten some international notoriety, particularly where pitchers are concerned, and something that Tanaka has also participated in, breaking a record by throwing 742 pitches over the 6 game span.
From a money standpoint, the totals thrown around for both the posting fee and the eventual salary for Tanaka have fluctuated, and more recent reports have leaned towards the heavier funds going towards salary rather than “off the books” posting fee. As it stands, the posting fee is a flat $20M for a team wishing to negotiate a contract with the right-hander. Contract amounts are guesses, but it’s a certainty that Tanaka will receive something of the long-term variety. This all plays in the favor of the White Sox by leveling out the playing field a bit where the posting fee is concerned and being a team building for the future, willing to commit to talent for an extended amount of time. Still, is Rick Hahn willing to not only throw around a whole lot more money to acquire a single player, but throw it at an MLB-unproven pitcher with question marks about durability? Jose Abreu is a lottery ticket in a way, and so is Tanaka. Are two lottery tickets better than one? You can only win the lotto once at a time, both players could be successful, and it would be nice to have a potential top-flight guy pitching the day after Chris Sale every turn in the rotation wouldn’t it?