It has been over a week since the Rakuten Golden Eagles made pitcher Masahiro Tanaka available to big league teams. Rumors have been flying concerning Tanaka’s eventual destination in the U.S., with the New York Yankees seeming to be the front runners. However, for the time being, the 25 year old is waiting patiently while numerous MLB front offices scramble to acquire his services. New York is one of many organizations seeking to sign Tanaka, but GM Brian Cashman and owner Hal Stenbrenner may be squandering other opportunities while waiting on the Japanese stars’ decision.
There is no doubt that Tanaka is a good pitcher; his 24-0 record in 2013 proves that. He could thrive in a Yankees rotation alongside C.C. Sabathia and fellow Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. He might acclimate quickly, being in the big city and having veterans like Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki teaching him the ropes. New York fans may embrace him the way they did Hideki “Godzilla” Matsui. But that is all wishful thinking.
In reality, Tanaka has never pitched a game in the majors. His stuff may be unhittable in Japan, but so was Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s, and now look at him. The Yankees are putting too much faith into this highly unproven player. It sounds eerily similar to the Kei Igawa situation in 2007, something fans in the Bronx surely don’t want repeated.
With proven big league veterans like Matt Garza, Bronson Arroyo and Ervin Santana still available, the Yankees may be making a mistake by waiting on Tanaka. Each of the three previously mentioned pitchers would be more than suitable in the Yankees’ rotation, and they would probably come at a cheaper price than Tanaka too.
It is too early to tell if New York is playing their cards right. In a perfect world, Tanaka would sign with the Yankees and turn out to be more like Yu Darvish than Hideki Irabu. Big league teams take huge gambles in signing these international stars, so hopefully this one pays off for Cashman and the Bombers.