Japan has played very well in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, just like they did in 2006 and 2009. Japan was led by pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish respectively; both pitchers were posted by their Japanese league teams, and went on to sign very large contracts with MLB teams.
This year, Japan has more than one very good pitcher carrying the team. Kenta Maeda has performed the best this time around with a 2-0 record, with 15 strikeouts in ten innings pitched, but right-hander Masahiro Tanaka is by far the best pitcher on the staff.
Tanaka is member of Tohuku Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japanese league, the same team that Hisashi Iwakuma of the Seattle Mariners pitched for in Japan.
At 24, Tanaka is seasoned veteran of the Japanese league, with an impressive career ERA of 2.50 in 1100+ innings pitched in six full seasons. Although Tanaka is still three years away from earning his international free agency, he has hinted at pitching in America and could be posted by his Japanese team.
If Tanaka is posted next winter, the Seattle Mariners should be strongly interested in him.
Not only is Seattle geographically the closest team to Japan, but they have been a very good landing spot for Japanese free agents like Ichiro, Kazuhiro Sasaki and Iwakuma. These players were most likely lured to the northwest by Mariners majority owner and Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi.
After Felix Hernandez and Joe Saunders (who has a team option), the Mariners rotation is completely up in the air for the 2014 season. How it’s built will be based on the performances of young pitchers like Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan, and the arrival dates of top prospects Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker.
The Mariners could really use some veteran experience in the rotation next year that has more talent than Saunders. Although he has not pitched in MLB, Tanaka has plenty of professional experience, and he has pitched in the last two World Baseball Classics for Japan.
It will take a lot of money to lure a high-profile pitcher like him, but the Mariners have no problem spending money on international free agents. If Tanaka continues to impress in the WBC, the Mariners will have to battle with the rest of the league if/when he is posted.