The New York Yankees are supposedly going to aggressively pursue Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. I’ve read scouting reports that compare him to a young Hiroki Kuroda, who is a free agent-to-be at 38 years of age. The Yankees should try and retain Kuroda, whose reported favored destinations are either the Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers (his former team), or to go back to Japan.
But, the 24-year-old Tanaka is the prized pitcher that is on the market this offseason who will not only require a mega-contract, but also a posting fee to his Japanese team, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. This fee could be up to $60 million, and won’t bother the Yanks because it won’t go against their self-imposed $189 million salary cap (below the luxury tax threshold).
Tanaka’s numbers this year have been video game-like, going 24-0 with a 1.24 ERA. The most recent Japanese import, Yu Darvish, had an excellent season for the Texas Rangers this year, and scouts say Tanaka could translate to MLB just as well as Darvish did. Some people who have knowledge on the subject say that Tanaka has the best splitter in the world, a pitch that Kuroda has used brilliantly to put batters away.
This would be a great move for the Yanks because of their dire need for starting pitching. Andy Pettitte retired at the end of the year, Kuroda is obviously not signed and Phil Hughes will likely find a new home in the offseason, so the only two rotation slots are filled by C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova.
With the recent success of Japanese pitchers in America, Tanaka is a no-brainer. If the Yankees re-sign Kuroda as well, it would make the transition for Tanaka even smoother and that would almost fill up the rotation, with the final slot probably going to a young prospect like David Phelps, Vidal Nuno or Adam Warren.
Don’t forget about Michael Pineda, who will hopefully finally be healthy, and the Yanks could have a complete overhaul in their rotation that could end up being one of the best in the majors. However, this is also very wishful thinking.