The “hot new item” this offseason is Japanese league pitcher Masahiro Tanaka of the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Like most offseasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t spent top dollar to bring in talent from outside the organization. It would seem obvious that the Bucs wouldn’t be interested in Tanaka, but it is still nice to be told by the front office that they won’t be involved in the bidding.
Since the Pirates aren’t even able to afford most players for market-value price, it would be foolish for them to jump in to the bidding war for Tanaka. Unlike MLB free agents, Tanaka is unproven. After pitching in the Japanese Pacific League for seven years, he posted a career 99-35 record with a 2.30 ERA. The question that could possibly hurt the market for the split-finger throwing pitcher is if he will be the next Yu Darvish, impressing everyone immediately, or if he will be the next Daisuke Matsuzaka. Comparing Tanaka to other Japanese pitchers may be unfair, but it undoubtedly happens.
Tanaka is definitely talented. He has a low-90’s fastball, a slider and a devastating splitter. The odds are in his favor that he will be more like Darvish and less like Matsuzaka, but there are certainly no guarantees. With the amount of money it may take to sign him, possibly over $100 million in addition to the $20 million posting fee, a small market team like the Pirates can’t afford to take that risk for an unproven pitcher.
There was never any indication that the Pirates would even approach the bidding war for Tanaka. No one expects the Pirates to spend that type of money on an MLB player, so they certainly won’t do it for a Japanese pitcher. While it might be exciting for the Bucs to be active during the “hot stove” season, it’s unrealistic for a team like them with the budget restraints they have.