As the collective baseball world awaits the decision of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles regarding their prized ace Masahiro Tanaka, many have kicked the tires on what he could mean to different teams. For the Cubs? There’s no telling what a pitcher of his caliber could mean in the coming years.
At just 25 years old, Tanaka has proven himself time and time again during his time in Japan. Last season, for example, he went 24-0 with an unthinkable 1.27 earned run average. During that stretch, he became the poster boy for the Golden Eagles – and for much of professional baseball in Japan, as well.
Before we delve into what he could mean to the Cubs next season, the biggest question that remains is what would an arm like this cost the organization? First, and foremost, the recently adopted changes to the posting system caps bids to negotiating rights at $20 million – a mere fraction of what Japanese teams once got for top talent (for example, the Red Sox paid $51.11 million to the Seibu Lions for the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2007).
In terms of talent, on paper it appears that Tanaka is a cut above the other notable Japanese arms baseball fans may be familiar with from recent years, including Matsuzaka and even Texas Rangers standout Yu Darvish.
Keeping in mind the contract details of both Darvish (six-years, $60 million) and Matsuzaka (six-years, $52 million) – it appears likely that the amount of both money and years needed to land Tanaka will exceed expectations.
The Cubs, who are rumored to be among three frontrunners for Tanaka, along with the Diamondbacks and Yankees, would likely have to go somewhere in the ballpark of seven to eight years with an AAV of approximately $13-$16 million – far north of what many starters are getting on the open market.
That would put the final deal at somewhere around $100 million, a major financial commitment for any team to undertake, especially for a player that has no experience in Major League Baseball. That being said, the Cubs could easily manage such a deal, and Tanaka could be a major asset in the coming years as Chicago’s top young talent begins to make its way to the Friendly Confines.
For now, we must wait. For all we know, the Golden Eagles will hold onto the right-hander, leaving the Cubs, Yankees and Diamondbacks to find other avenues to add pitching. Chicago would likely sit pat with what they have, while New York and Arizona could turn to the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana (both of whom are tied to draft pick compensation) or former Chicago righty Matt Garza, who is expected to draw a wider range of teams due to the lack of draft pick compensation ties.
$100 million. It’s a lot of money, that much is obvious. But how do you calculate a dollar sign on such a top-notch talent? The baseball world could soon find out.