Yankees

Report: Yankees May Bid For Star Japanese Pitcher Tanaka

24-Year-Old Right-Hander Has Drawn Comparisons To Texas Ace Yu Darvish
Masahiro Tanaka (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Masahiro Tanaka (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Yankees could very well look East in their pursuit of a starting pitcher next season.

The Far East.

According to ESPN, the Bombers are interested in 24-year-old Masahiro Tanaka, a phenom right-hander from the Japan Pacific League.

How good is Tanaka and how will his stuff potentially translate to heavy hitting Major League Baseball? Well, Tanaka went 20-0 with a 1.24 ERA this past season for Rakuten of the JPPL. For what it’s worth, he’s 95-35 with a 2.32 ERA during his seven-year career in Japan.

There are some who have compared Tanaka to Yu Darvish, who was 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA in seven seasons with Nippon Ham of the Japan Pacific League before signing a six-year, $56 million contract with the Texas Rangers prior to the 2012 season. Darvish has been very good in the majors, going 29-18 with a 3.34 ERA over the last two seasons.

Tanaka is known for a big curveball and a fastball that can reach 95 mph. He’s said to be a four-pitch pitcher who reminds many of a young Hiroki Kuroda.

It is believed if the Yankees do pursue Tanaka, they could bid somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million just to purchase his rights, a figure that will not count against their desired-but-not-mandatory $189 million salary threshold for 2014. They could then offer a deal similar to what Darvish received from the Rangers, ESPN reported.

Considering the Yankees’ past failures trying to get talent from Japan — Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa come to mind — fans may not be too high on another foray into trying to secure overseas help. However, as ESPN reported, the Yankees seem extremely interested in Tanaka — so much so that they sent assistant general manager Billy Eppler and at least two scouts to see him.

Regardless of what they decide on Tanaka, the Yankees are going to need the help in their rotation. Andy Pettitte retired. Kuroda is going on 40, struggled mightily over the last six weeks of this past season and is a free agent. Phil Hughes will likely be allowed to pursue free agency following his disastrous 2013 season. If all three do not return, the Yankees will be left with CC Sabathia, who is coming off a brutal season by his standards, ever-improving Ivan Nova, David Phelps and injured Michael Pineda.

The idea of trying to raid Japan may be the Yankees’ way of saying they don’t like what will be available on the open market and may be a reflection of the current state of the major league roster and farm system as far as untradeable contracts and talent levels go, respectively.

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