Red Sox Rumors: Maybe Masahiro Tanaka is a free-agent option after all
Would Masahrio Tanaka consider signing with the Boston Red Sox?
A report surfaced this week from NJ.com’s Randy Miller suggesting that free-agent starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka had narrowed his choices down to remaining with the New York Yankees or returning home to Japan. That would essentially remove one of the top remaining pitchers from the market, leaving a pitching-starved Boston Red Sox club with fewer targets.
It might be premature to cross Tanaka off the list considering the right-hander took to Twitter to refute this rumor.
The tweet was written in Tanaka’s native language but roughly translated into English, the message states:
"“Some media outlets have reported that they have no choice but to play for the Yankees or Japan about their future, but that’s not the case. At this stage, we are not limiting the teams we want to play next season, but we are thinking from all the teams that are interested in us.”"
While Tanaka would certainly seem to be a stronger source regarding his own future than the unidentified source from the NJ.com report, this statement doesn’t necessarily improve Boston’s chances of adding the two-time All-Star.
Miller’s source indicated that “there’s a good chance” that Tanaka would sign with the Yankees or return to Japan, phrasing which leaves the door slightly open for another MLB team.
However, he goes on to say that Tanaka isn’t interested in playing for a team that won’t contend next season. The Red Sox will almost certainly climb out of the basement in the AL East but will they improve the roster enough to convince Tanaka that they are ready to leap over the Yankees even if he switches sides? If Tanaka is prioritizing winning over money then it’s hard to see him being tempted into joining the other side of baseball’s fiercest rivalry.
We also have to consider if Tanaka’s statement is genuine or a negotiating ploy. Perhaps the Yankees were willing to call his bluff about returning to Japan and refused to bid against themselves. The threat of signing with another MLB team could swing leverage back in Tanaka’s direction. The Yankees want Tanaka back at the right price but they at least could take comfort in knowing he wouldn’t come back to bite them if he departed for Japan. That changes if Tanaka shows interest in another MLB team, particularly one that resides in their division.
Even if Tanaka isn’t seriously considering a move to Boston, the Red Sox stand to benefit by being used as leverage against the Yankees if it pushes their rivals to spend more than they want to retain him. New York’s rotation depth will be tested if Tanaka leaves so watching his price tag rise would put them in a difficult position.
More from Red Sox Rumors
- Is Jean Segura the solution to Red Sox’ Trevor Story concerns?
- Red Sox news: Orioles eyeing former Boston arms, Dansby Swanson to Cubs, JD Martinez to Dodgers
- Did Alex Cora just drop a huge hint about Red Sox free-agent target?
- MLB insider hints Red Sox teardown may continue with two trades
- Division rival targeting Red Sox 2022 standout Michael Wacha
Yes, money matters, even to the Yankees. Consider that they are in danger of losing DJ LeMahieu to free agency because they’ve been unable to close a reported gap of about $25 million at the negotiating table. If New York is holding firm on their offer for the reigning batting champion who finished top-four on the AL MVP ballot the last two seasons, why would they bend to Tanaka’s demands?
If the Yankees drop the ball and he views Boston as a viable alternative, Tanaka would be a strong No. 3 option to slot behind Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez when the rotation is back at full strength.
Tanaka owns a 78-46 career record with a 3.74 ERA and 8.5 K/9. He went 3-3 with a 3.56 ERA and 8.3 K/9 in 10 starts last season.
He isn’t the top starter on Boston’s radar but he’s a safer choice than higher upside options such as Corey Kluber or James Paxton who are coming off of injuries.
Tanaka plans to end his playing career with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, his club in Japan from 2007-13. The 32-year-old doesn’t appear to be nearing the end yet, which further supports the theory that he’s bluffing about returning to Japan now. However, if he wants to ensure he has enough left in the tank to finish his career back home then he may only be looking for a one- or two-year deal, further mitigating the risks that come with signing veteran free-agent pitchers and creating future financial flexibility.
It’s probably a long shot that Tanaka would sign with the Red Sox but at least the door remains open based on his recent comments. If nothing else, this turn of events will make the offseason that much more difficult for the Yankees.