Analysis

Tanaka Meeting with Clubs in Los Angeles

Let the games begin.

Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka is in Los Angeles meeting with – or having already met with –  MLB teams, which include the Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, and Diamondbacks, among many others, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. He reports the pitcher is seeking $100 million or more in a free agent deal.

Nowhere in his article does Heyman suggest the Phillies are part of the discussions, although they’d be foolish not to be. With Rakuten in Japan last season, Tanaka finished 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA. The team signs him will add a $20 million posting fee that goes to his Japanese team, but will not count against the cap.

Back in November, I suggested the Phillies make a play for him in the event that Cliff Lee is dealt in the next few seasons. Tanaka is certainly a risky proposition but would bolster the Phillies staff should they decide moving Lee is better for the long term, while allowing him to team with Hamels at the top of the rotation for many years. That would make the transition from Lee much easier in the future.

It seems unlikely the Phils will spend much more than they already have this offseason as Ruben Amaro Jr. has shown an unwillingness to offer long-term contracts as his aging team’s payroll currently sits around a rough estimate of $165 million for 2014. At nearly $20 million per season, Tanaka would balloon the payroll near the luxury tax of $189 million.

Is Tanaka worth the investment? Or are the Phillies wise in standing pat and waiting out some of their longer-term deals over the next few seasons while spending wisely?

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Rags Faircloth

    January 9, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    It seems like someone from the organization should be there purely to perform due diligence, although the Phillies’ front office has been known to work in mysterious ways.

  2. Cs

    January 9, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    There is no reason not to be in on him.

  3. DadsInKeyLargo

    January 9, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    I somehow stupidly posted this on the wrong thread…Shrugs and sighing…

    In a word, Yes…Cee Lee will be outtahere soon.
    I can see a future rotation of
    Hamels, Tanaka, Gonzalez, and Biddle. and a PTBNL.

  4. Jael

    January 9, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    What do thus m for my boy cliff lee and cole

  5. Jael

    January 9, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    No boy lee is still he gt. he sign for one year . Now if cole cliff lee and gonazalez you trade papelbon for him not lee or cole

  6. Bob D

    January 9, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    At age 23 (I think) he would be a great asset not only now but in the future to build around. At $100 mil for about 6 years, as the experts predict, he would be around till 2020, with Hamels till 2018/19 and Lee thru 2015. Jesse Biddle should make his debut at some point and several others who have good potential of being mid level starter to upper end. The rotation, if maintained well could be a strength for years to come. And they could very likely provide the team a chance to win consistently.

  7. hk

    January 9, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Yes, they should sign him if the price is reasonable, with reasonable being as Bob D described above (~$100M + the $20M posting fee for 6 seasons). Unfortunately, with the Yankees and maybe the Dodgers in the mix, I see this guy getting more like $126M + the posting fee for 7 seasons in which case I’d be okay with the Phils dropping out.

    • Lefty

      January 9, 2014 at 6:05 pm

      hk, Is your apprehension about the 18m per, or the length? I get the point of not wanting to extend too long on contracts, heck I’ve railed against that frequently here myself.
      Throw in the fact that he’s a pitcher who only pitched once a week, and of course there have been some clunkers from Japan i the past, …..buuuuuut-

      When/where else do you get a shot at a 25 year old FA? In seven years he’s 32. Cliff Lee was entering his age 32 season when they signed him to 5 years plus vesting right?
      I don’t know, I’m just thinking that it might be worth the gamble in this case with the infusion of new TV money.

      • hk

        January 9, 2014 at 7:23 pm

        Lefty,

        The thing that concerns me a bit about Tanaka, especially when compared to the Lee signing, is that Lee was a proven MLB ace when they signed him whereas Tanaka is still an unknown. Put differently, the downside is much greater with Tanaka and I’m concerned that if he’s more Irabu than Darvish, the more years, the worse. I think you have to draw a line somewhere, so I drew it at $100M/6. If they sign him for 6 or fewer years and an AAV of $16M or lower, I’d say that they did very well. If they sign him for 7 years at an AAV of ~$17M, I’d say they did okay. 7 years at a significantly higher AAV or 8 years and I think the deal is likely to be an overpay.

      • Brooks

        January 11, 2014 at 7:46 am

        Fully on board with HK on this one. Lee was well trenched and even got better (IMO) as time marched ahead but with Tanaka – your dropping maybe up to 20 mil a year and, regardless of the outcome, you are stuck in a contract that only players seem to be able to wiggle out of.

  8. Bruce

    January 9, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    It seems pointless to link the Phillies with any discussion about Tanaka. The Yankees and the Dodgers will partake in a bidding war for him and don’t give a damn about the luxury tax.

    • Bruce

      January 11, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      An update here; With the inevitable news that Alex Rodriguez’s suspension is upheld by the arbitrator, it will cost the highest -paid player, all of the $25 million the Yankees were obligated to pay him for the 2014 season. The Yankees had the suspension in mind when they calculated the inclusion $25 million in their budget toward their bid to sign Tanaka. It will also ease their concern for the luxury tax.

      Again, I think the Yankees only competition will be the wealthy orginazation of the L.A. Dodgers.

      • Lefty

        January 12, 2014 at 6:28 am

        “The Yankees had the suspension in mind when they calculated the inclusion $25 million in their budget toward their bid to sign Tanaka.”

        Are you part of the Yankees front office? Please share how exactly you know this – “fact” you point out?

        Look, it stinks that the Yankees MAY get the luxury tax break on this, but if I’m reading correctly, I don’t think they can budget anything until they know if A-Rod gets a stay or injunction. Tanaka could be long gone by then.

      • hk

        January 12, 2014 at 7:58 am

        If getting under the luxury tax is an actual goal of the Yankees front office – personally, I don’t believe that it is – the ARod suspension would make them less likely to go after Tanaka, unless they trade one or more of the players currently on the roster in a salary dump. This is especially so if they want someone other than Eduardo Nunez to play 3B. According to Cot’s, without ARod, the Yankees have $155.5M committed to 13 players for 2014. While the luxury tax limit is $189M, it is really ~$177M because (a) each team has ~$11M of Club Player Benefit Costs that count against the luxury tax and (b) each team has to pay ~$1M that also counts against the luxury tax for players 26 through 40 on the 40-man roster. Therefore, if the Yankees win a bidding war for Tanaka and pay him an AAV of ~$17.5M, they’ll be at $173M for 14 players and they still have to (1) re-sign their starting LF Gardner and their new closer Robertson, both of whom are in line for raises from the ~$3M they each made last year, (2) find a 3B and (3) sign 8 other players at $500K+ each to fill out the 25-man roster.

        All of the above is not to say that the Yankees won’t bid for Tanaka. It’s just to say that if they do, they’ll exceed the luxury tax with or without ARod’s salary on the books.

      • schmenkman

        January 12, 2014 at 10:07 am

        hk, agreed. I guess we can say that if they were expecting to pay a certain penalty for going over the tax threshold, they now have $10 M ($25 M x 40%) to use for the penalty on Tanaka’s signing.

  9. hk

    January 9, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Bruce,

    Just because those teams are willing to pay the luxury tax doesn’t mean that they won’t draw the line somewhere and let him sign elsewhere. We just don’t know where they’ll draw the line. For instance, the Dodgers are at least going to have to think about what giving Tanaka $20M+ per year would do to their efforts to re-sign Clayton Kershaw. And, the Yankees have to know that Tanaka doesn’t guarantee them anything. In fact, even with him, they may only be the third best team in that division. Yes, they can afford to give him any amount, but just because they can doesn’t mean they will. Won’t they look a bit foolish if they give a guy who’s never played in MLB $20M+, yet they wouldn’t resign their best player for slightly more than that?

  10. Eric Hines

    January 9, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    The price on this guy is without doubt going to be on the high side considering the risks involved–no one knows how effective his stuff will be in the MLB, no one knows how many healthy seasons you’ll get out of him, no one knows what kind of pita he may turn into. But looking at who *is* interested, the bidding is going to be on the high side of reasonable. So why is it a foregone conclusion that the Phillies are stupid not to play this game? At best he’ll be the difference between a mediocre and a bad-to-mediocre team in the short to medium term. Why spend $20 million/year on that? I don’t see the point. The team ought to be looking five years down the line right now, not spending nine figures right now on a guy who’ll be in the last years of his contract then. There will be better ways to spend that money in the next few years.

  11. Bob in Bucks

    January 9, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    I don’t understand the writer’s linkage between Tanaka and Lee. If the Phillies deal Lee it will be because they don’t see probable winner in the next three years. With that in mind why take on Tanaka’s salary now? If Lee goes it means a number of bad years. Best ot hold their powder and wait until they get closer to being a competitor.

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