NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Bobby Valentine knows a thing or two about Japanese baseball, having managed there in 1995 and then again from 2004-09.
And he also knows a thing or two about Masahiro Tanaka, who is expected to sign with a major league club this offseason.
The former Mets, Rangers and Red Sox manager believes that the 25-year-old starter can instantly become one of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball.
“He pitches like Jose Fernandez,” Valentine told the New York Post on Friday. “I think (Tanaka) has similar stuff and similar competitiveness. He is battle-proven, and there is nothing you wouldn’t like about him. He would be a credit to anybody’s staff.”
Fernandez, of course, won the NL Rookie of the Year Award this past season, pitching to a 2.19 ERA for the lowly Marlins.
Tanaka was brilliant for the Rakuten Golden Eagles last season, going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA.
The Yankees, who desperately need starting pitching, are reportedly interested in signing the phenom. The Dodgers, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Red Sox and Rangers have also been linked to the right-hander, according to the newspaper.
Valentine, who managed in Queens from 1996-2002, is of the opinion that Tanaka would be better suited pitching in the NL than he would be in the Bronx.
“If I was him, I would pitch in the National League,” Valentine told the New York Post. “I would pitch on the West Coast and I would pitch where the weather isn’t going to be a factor.”
Tanaka’s posting fee is capped at $20 million, giving smaller-market teams the opportunity to sign him.
“His split-fingered fastball is the best in the world,” Valentine told the newspaper. “He’s all about aggressiveness, competitiveness. He got put on the big stage as a young guy, where he was in the (Japanese) major leagues as a 19-year-old and he played for all those international teams, WBC and was on staff with all the big boys and always held his own.”
There might be one thing to be concerned about, however, in regard to how Tanaka’s success will translate to the majors. One thing to consider, at least.
“The mounds are a big adjustment for guys coming over from Japan because the mounds over there are soft,” Valentine said. “That is a big adjustment.”
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