Tanaka, Rakuten, and the Red Sox


Merry Christmas to all!

The Rakuten Golden Eagles have officially announced, per Dylan Hernandez and Sankei Sports, that they will post coveted right-hander, Masahiro Tanaka.

For those of you who may still be in the dark, Tanaka is a 24-year-old right-hander who put up a monstrous 24-0 season as Rakuten’s ace, en route to an NPB championship. Combined with a 1.27 ERA, Tanaka was easily the best pitcher in the NPB this past year. For a more in-depth scouting report, head on over to Baseball America, where Ben Badler has taken care of the details.

Dec 11, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Rakuten Golden Eagles president Yozo Tachibana (right) walks through the lobby during the MLB Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Tachibana has not decided whether or not to allow Masahiro Tanaka (not pictured) to sign with a MLB team now that Nippon Professional Baseball and the MLB have agreed on a $20 Million maximum posting bid. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

My colleague, Earl Nash, has estimated Tanaka’s contract at something like $36 million/4 years. I, however, am not one to play the guessing game, especially in a situation like this, where all 30 teams have a semi-realistic shot at bidding for the superstar. Yet, according to Jon Heyman, at least one executive believes there isn’t any doubt that Tanaka will receive a figure in excess of $100 million.

To be fair, the decision to post Tanaka comes as quite a shock to most of us at home (or maybe just to me, I don’t know). The choice, made by Rakuten’s president, is an almost complete reversal of reports which surfaced last week, saying that Tanaka wouldn’t be posted, as the Golden Eagles would receive too little in return. Tanaka’s posting fee was rumored to greatly eclipse that of both Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, at $51.1 and $51.7 million respectively.

So, What’s all this got to do with Boston?

Oct 27, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Felix Doubront (22) throws against the St. Louis Cardinals during the sixth inning of game four of the MLB baseball World Series at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

First, had Tanaka not been posted at all, the Red Sox would essentially have the starting pitching market cornered. With six viable major league starters it has been rumored that one of them will be moved this offseason, with the likeliest culprits being Jake Peavy or Ryan Dempster. Felix Doubront though, would fetch a hefty return as a young, controllable, left-hander. So, Tanaka. With Tanaka now essentially a free agent, Boston’s leverage on the trade market has suddenly fallen, if not plummeted. Teams can now turn to the Japanese ace, rather than satiate Boston’s (likely) desire for a massive return on a starter.

Second, the Sox have no discernible need for yet another pitcher. With a nearly over flowing budget, and an overstocked rotation, it seems unlikely that the Sox will commit upwards of $120 million to Tanaka and Rakuten. Had Rakuten waited until next year to post, Boston would have been one of the most aggressive bidders, as Dempster, Peavy, and Jon Lester are all scheduled to come off the books at the end of the season. Now, it seems that Boston will have to sit back and miss out on one of the most coveted pitchers this offseason.