Last Updated on August 17, 2017 by Jason A. Churchill


The starting pitching market moved at a snail’s pace in anticipation of a decision on whether or not Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka would become available this winter. Christmas Day provided an answer to that question as Tanaka was posted by his Japanese club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, alongside a $20 million (maximum) release fee, essentially making him a free agent able to negotiate with all thirty teams.

Seattle has been seen as a logical fit given the city’s proximity to Japan as well as the previous success of other Japanese imports such as Ichiro Suzuki, Kenji Johjima, and current Mariner and former teammate of Tanaka’s, Hisashi Iwakuma. Factor in the team’s need for another starter and surplus cash still lingering, and the match is almost too obvious. Ben Badler of Baseball America suggests that the Seattle Mariners are the favorites to land the 25-year old in a preview of Tanaka’s potential market.

Badler opens the Mariners’ case by mentioning the lack of financial commitments Seattle has moving forward. Aside from Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez, the M’s have minimal salary commitments outside of arbitration-eligible players. Once the new Regional Sports Network money the M’s are due over the next several seasons comes in, there’s reason to think that an annual payroll in the $100-120 million range would be a definite possibility. Earlier reports indicated that Seattle was close to their payroll limits for 2014 after signing Cano but could make an exception for the right player; Tanaka may just be that player.

Not only would slotting the right-hander between King Felix and Iwakuma give Seattle an elite rotation on paper, it would also ease some of the pressure that’ll fall on top prospect Taijuan Walker should he make the rotation out of Spring Training. It’s likely that Tanaka would instead be the center of attention, at least at the beginning of 2014, as the baseball world will be watching him closely. Another positive for acquiring the Japanese ace is that he’ll only cost money. The M’s have been reluctant to meet the Tampa Bay Rays’ demands of Walker and more in a trade for their ace David Price, and free agents Ubaldo Jiminez and Ervin Santana will cost the team another draft pick if they were to sign.

Badler also notes that should the M’s sign Tanaka, or any of the top available starters for that matter, they could use their prospect resources to acquire a quality outfielder since Nelson Cruz is what remains of the free agent outfield market. If that’s not enough reason to make a push for Tanaka, then I don’t know what is. With another potential ace in the fold, perhaps Seattle would be less reluctant to include James Paxton in a potential deal, especially since the righty is just 25 years old. Badler mentions Colby Rasmus of the Toronto Blue Jays as a potential trade target, but he’s a free agent after this season and may be more inclined to test the market instead of signing an extension at this time.

The New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Chicago Cubs are also listed as favorites in Badler’s article. The Yankees have long been connected with Tanaka given their need for starting pitching and luxury tax concerns that would’ve been eased under the old posting system. Although the new system will make things a little tougher for the Yanks, they’re still expected to be highly involved. LA on the other hand, doesn’t really have an outright need for another starter, but they seem to have more money than they know what to do with so why not? The Dodgers’ interest in Tanaka could heat up if they feel they’ll be unable to sign reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw to an extension since he’ll be a free agent after this season and has a case for a record contract.

While the Dodger and Yankee connections seem relatively palatable, the Cubs aren’t quite as logical a fit since they’re still knee deep in a complete rebuild. But, considering the right-hander is still only 25 and yet to hit his hypothetical prime years, he could be a perfect fit for the Cubs’ plan. Chicago isn’t likely to be a serious contender until 2015 at the earliest, and the addition of a top rotation arm would go a long ways to making that a possibility.

Ken Rosenthal doesn’t quite share the same views as Badler however, as he reports the Arizona Diamondbacks are serious suitors for the righty’s services. Arizona was eighth on Badler’s list of potential suitors with budget limitations as their biggest hinderance in luring Tanaka. Rosenthal reports that the D-Backs were prepared to get in the bidding for Shin-Soo Choo earlier this winter, so they appear to have the resources required to spend more than $100 million on acquiring the Japanese star. Free agent Matt Garza has also been connected to the desert throughout the offseason.

Since Tanaka’s preference are relatively unknown at this point, we can only speculate about what he’s looking for in a potential contract and team. Perhaps he wants to join an immediate World Series contender, or join a high profile market such as New York or Los Angeles. Maybe he’s strictly looking for the most cash. We’ve seen speculative numbers in the $100-140 million range on top of the $20 million release fee over a contract that could be between six and eight years in length.

Many didn’t consider Seattle to be a serious landing spot for Cano earlier this winter, so there’s a realistic hope that Tanaka views the perks offered by playing in the Emerald City in the same light as the former Yankee did.


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  1. Avatar

    Not a problem. If they would trade Trout for Walker alone, reality as I understand it would dissolve. I just want them to hang on to him and Paxton now that they are near ready for The Show.

    Was just reading a MLBTR piece stating Z will need ownership approval for any serious purchase based on Ken Rosenthal as a source. Lincoln is on the record as saying the new ROOT NW deal allows the M’s to compete against the Rangers and Angels and stating this years payroll will exceed last year. So far it’s only close to last season and certainly not over it. I don’t doubt Lincoln wants to go out a winner before he becomes worm chow and he’s going to be 74 next month. If Nintendo won’t spring for a Japanese pitcher then shame on them.

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    Thank god for edman..he never says anything annoying. Sorry mgvernon my bad

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    Actually I don’t think he was referring to any sort of possible trade, but just inferring that Walker should be rated as untouchable by the Mariners.

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    I have no illusions as to the value of Seattle’s prospect. I think the point was not that Walker is traded for Trout, as much as it is about that’s the kind of player that should be returned, if you trade Walker, to which I agree.

    Before you go too far into other’s opinions, might I suggest that your constant recycling of “Rasmus” in every post, is equally as annoying.

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    Cracks me up when people think our top prospects can get any player. It would take felix walker zunino plus to get trout.

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    Steamer projects the Mariners as winning 83.1 games this year just with the players they have now,(which about how I see them as a .500 team) before they add more talent.

    I would only trade Walker for Trout. The M’s play in a pitchers ballpark, pitchers are worth more to them than bats. Getting rid of Saunders, Harang and Bonderman out of the rotation and Morse and Raul from the outfield is some serious addition by subtraction.

    The whole AL West has gotten tougher, but the other teams schedules got tougher as well as ours. I doubt the Rangers will only loose two games against the Astros again this year. I think the floor for the coming season has been raised by our acquisitions and the shedding of ineffectual pieces, but our success or lack of it will be down our young players and how well they do compared to our expectations. Signing Tanaka would be huge. I still think he’s the real deal.

    Rasmus would be a good get but only if he signs an extension, as others have noted. I’ve seen reference to Jon Jay from the Cardinals as a potential trade target but he’s coming off of a bit off a down year. I just hope they don’t go for Cruz.

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    If they do end up bringing in Tanaka, I expect it would be a signal that they’re ready to move up the payroll permanently. Right now we have a lot of flexibility, even with Cano signed long term. But adding Tanaka would give them three players making ~$70 million. That really only makes sense if they are going to gradually bump the payroll up towards $150 million.

    That may sound like a lot, but that’s the zone where the larger market teams are these days. That would get them into the top 5-10 teams, which is where I think they should be. They don’t need to do that immediately, but as guys like Seager, Walker, etc get closer to free agency, the payroll situation will become an issue. Adding a guy like Rasmus would just add another guy who will cost 17-20 mil. If they can eventually reach that upper payroll tier, it mitigates the risks and adding those types of contracts starts to make some sense.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

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    I like gose also and think he would be a nice fit. Rather have rasmus though for many years.

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    I’ve heard a lot of similar knocks against him too. There’s no question about the kids defence and he’s got some decent speed. I think that if the Jays let him start the year in AAA to work out his bat issues he could still develop into a very useful player. I kind of think Franklin Gutierrez-Lite with Gose, but with that being said, I still wouldn’t mind seeing him roam Safeco for a number of years.

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    Ive seen him play too and he is much better than davis. He is a great defensive player and they like him alot. We have to have a gold glove caliber cf I safeco. I wished gutti wasnt so beat up but you cant count on him to play more games than what he spends on the dl anymore. Ackley should be a LF only and let saunders backup all 3. Even LF can be tough in safeco but if you put ackley in cf and hart/morrison on one of the corners thats not good. We had one of the worst defensive of last year and in that park if you dont have at least a very good cf it will lose you some games

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    I have seen Gose two times for Buffalo He really struggled against offspeed stuff from LHP. His pitch recognition skills don’t look all that good. Granted that is pretty small sample size, but I don’t think he will develop into anything better than a Rajai Davis type.

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    Well I believe they are starting to think he is close.There have been several rumors that they are looking to see what they can get for Rasmus. Doubt that you can get him to avoid free agency though as the OF class 1n 2015 is pretty weak and Rasmus will be wanted. I would take Gose for Franklin straight up though.

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    If Gose was ready, Rasmus would already be gone, is the way I look at it. I’ve seen Gose a bit in AAA and I don’t know if he has a MLB bat. But I’m no expert and Gose is young, but I’m not starting him in CF until he proves he can hit. Tanaka, Go M’s.

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    If they signed Tanaka and traded for Rasmus that would be unbelievable. That would be an amazing rotation that has plenty of youth. I would only trade for Rasmus if he can be extended and if not focus on Gose. I think they could aquire Rasmus for Franklin and Ramires or less. Toronto does want pitching but really needs a young 2B and Franklin would fit perfect for them. They are the perfect trade partner because we have what they need and they have what we need-plenty of OF. I wouldnt give up Franklin for 1 year of Rasmus though. Colby Rasmus in my opinion is the perfect CF for this team-its very hard to find a player who can play that type of defense with solid 20+ HR power speed and decent on base skills. The only CF I would rather get is Gomez in Milwaukee and they are not trading him with that perfect contract. Michael Saunders is not that player-not even close. Saunders is a great 4th of and thats it.

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