Boston Red Sox Wise To Stay Away From Masahiro Tanaka

By Michael Dobreski
Adam Pretty-Getty Images

The New York Yankees have blown past the $189 million self-imposed player payroll budget. It turns out that the chance of missing the playoffs for a second straight year was a risk they were not willing to take. Luxury tax or not, missing the playoffs two years in a row would make it tough to feed the beast. The signing of Masahiro Tanaka is the latest Yankees offseason move which now has them poised to win the AL East — or does it?

Tanaka and his price tag did not make sense for the Boston Red Sox as they were not one of the teams that entered a bid. The Red Sox seem intent on trying to sign Jon Lester to an extension sometime this spring. He will not be cheap. Lester isn’t perfect, and the debate has raged on about whether or not he is really an ace.

At the end of the day, it comes down to semantics, Lester has proven that he is a very good pitcher who can perform in the AL East and for Boston. The Red Sox are better off taking a chance on a long-term deal with someone they know rather than someone like Tanaka, who has all kinds of question marks.

The Red Sox really could have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to arms this season. The entire rotation is back from the 2013 championship team, and then there are the youngsters who are poised to have breakout seasons.

Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster both came over in the blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. De La Rosa is finally feeling 100 percent healthy after having Tommy John surgery. Webster showed glimpses of greatness last season, but also struggled at times.

Gary Disarcina, who worked with many of the Red Sox prospects, feels that Webster has the best stuff in the organization. Webster does struggle with his mechanics, but if he can get his mechanics consistent,  many feel he could be dominant at the big league level.

The Yankees have struggled to develop their pitching prospects. Failure in development comes with a big price tag that, in this case, takes the form of $155 million to an unproven pitcher that the Yankees felt they needed to have to compete for a championship. The question marks are there for Tanaka, and Brian Cashman does not deny it. Yankee fans have a fear they just signed another Kei Igawa while they hold out hope that he is closer to Yu Darvish.

Cashman was asked how he can be certain that Tanaka won’t turn out like Igawa. The GM admitted he is not 100 percent certain, but does admit that Tanaka was scouted by the Yankees a lot closer than they scouted Igawa. The big difference is that Igawa was scouted by an outside agency in Japan while Tanaka has been scouted by the Yankees for the last few years.

Red Sox fans know all about disappointment when it comes to spending money on Japanese pitchers with through-the-roof expectations. Daisuke Matsuzaka was supposed to be unhittable. He was not as big of a bust as Igawa, but he certainly was not Darvish.

The biggest issue with Japanese pitchers coming to MLB is the difference in the size of the ball. According to Brian Cashman, Tanaka has been using the MLB-sized ball for the last few years during his side sessions in Japan. Cashman feels that Tanaka will be successful with the Yankees, but stopped short of making any guarantees.

When asked if he felt Tanaka could be the ace of the staff, he explained that their scouts did not feel he was at that point yet. Most scouts have him as a no. 3 guy in a typical rotation. Cashman pretty much admitted that, but was quick to point out that Tanaka has the mindset of an ace, which he feels is very important.

The Yankees are winning the offseason headlines and have improved their team. However, their lacking farm system has really put them in a dangerous spot. These moves may all work out, but if they don’t, the Yankees’ problems will only get worse in years to come — and we haven’t even talked about the Alex Rodriguez issue that’s looming over the 2015 season yet.

Michael Dobreski is the creator of The Pesky Pole blog and is the Boston Red Sox writer for  Follow him on Twitter

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