NEW YORK (WFAN) — At this point, the Yankees view Masahiro Tanaka as the only option to upgrade their rotation.
Yankees beat reporter Sweeny Murti was a guest on WFAN with Jody McDonald on Thursday and said the Bombers have been waiting for this opportunity for some time and plan on sealing the deal.
“Tanaka is a guy who they have spent considerable time and effort scouting, especially over the last 12 months. And I don’t think there’s any secret that they made him a target and will put forth every effort to get him, but, obviously, they are not alone in this,” Murti said.
Murti estimated that the Yankees are one of up to 12 teams that could throw their hat in the ring for the Japanese right-hander, who put up an eye-popping 24-0 record with a 1.27 ERA last season in leading his team, Rakuten of the Japan Pacific League, to a championship. It is believed that Tanaka will sign a major league contract sometime between now and Jan. 24.
“It could take all 30 days. This could take a while. There are a lot of teams that can play on these guys. If you’ve seen some of the money that has been thrown around here, and if you’ve seen some of the teams doing it, you’ll know they will not get scared off by the process for Tanaka,” Murti said.
The reason for all the interest goes beyond Tanaka’s apparent ability. The new posting system agreed to by Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball is quite team-friendly. In the past, if teams were interested in Japanese imports, they had to blindly bid just for the right to negotiate a contract with a player. Now, under the new rules, any team that is willing to spend $20 million can negotiate a contract with Tanaka. Only the team that signs Tanaka will be required to pay the posting fee.
Murti said for a player of Tanaka’s apparent abilities, $20 million is not a lot of money to commit to, which is why it is expected that more than just the usual big-spending teams, like the Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers and Red Sox, will get involved in the free-for-all for the 25-year-old right-hander’s services.
Murti said the manageable posting price makes Tanaka a better risk than taking a run at any of the big three starting pitchers still on the market — Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana — who, some believe, are asking for a lot more in money and years than they may be worth.
It is believed Tanaka would get in the neighborhood of what catcher Brian McCann got from the Yankees — five years, $85 million. Murti said those numbers could go up depending on the number of teams involved.
It’s important to note that Tanaka, despite his gaudy stats, is really a great mystery and the team that does sign him will be taking somewhat of a risk.
“There’s a complete unknown factor here because you haven’t really talked to him. You can scout him, but there’s still the unknown of making the transfer to the major leagues,” Murti said. “All the things talked about – the different size of the ball and the cultural differences. Some players have made them very easily, others have not. So there’s a bit of unknown factor here that your bidding against as opposed to some of the other guys that you know have pitched against major league competition and performed relatively well.”
Murti said if the Yankees are beaten out for Tanaka’s services they have no intention of caving to the demands of a Garza, Jimenez or Santana. They could very well go lower end and make the back end of their rotation a competition between kids and veterans for two slots.
In the interim, Murti said the Yankees will go after Tanaka aggressively. They may use former World Series MVP Hideki Matsui and current players Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki to help sell New York.
“It won’t be for a lack of effort,” Murti said.
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