Now that the posting is done on Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, expect at least eight baseball teams to line up for the Japanses phenom, and at least one of them has to be the Philadelphia Phillies.
The team already has some pretty deep pockets in anticipation of a multi-billion TV deal, but the recent chatter that they will listen to any and all offers for former untouchables Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels could mean that the Phillies are clearing payroll space for a serious Tanaka push.
Hamels is the more attractive carrot for the Phils to dangle since the 2008 World Series’ MVP is six years younger than Lee and comes $5 million cheaper per season. The Phils probably cannot and do not want to get rid of both, but landing Tanaka would soften the blow of losing either.
The mere cost of talking to Tanaka is going to be $20 million, and landing him could cost way more, but it would be worth it because of his insane numbers in Japan. He’s only 24-years-old and went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 212 innings pitched. Those are not typos, and are numbers that would shame even Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal and Bob Gibson in their primes.
Yes, those are Japan numbers, but Japanese baseball is pretty good baseball. The days of journeymen major leaguers like former Phils’ manager Charlie Manuel going over there and dominating ended about 30 years ago. Now, it’s more likely that a Japanese star like Ichiro Suzuki moves stateside and becomes a star.
For their part, the Phils have not been reluctant to take risks on international players, with their most recent being the signing of Cuban free agent Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Since then, though, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has been counting his pennies with low-profile offseason signings.
Now is the time for this big-market team with the unlimited revenue stream to act like it and do whatever is necessary to land Tanaka.