Masahiro Tanaka Rumors

Rosenthal’s Latest: D-Backs, Tanaka, Brewers, Colvin

In his latest column over at FOXSports.com, Ken Rosenthal reports that the Diamondbacks' pursuit of top free agents Masahiro Tanaka, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran stemmed from the fact they'll soon be completing a new television deal with FOX Sports that will be worth at least $90MM per season for a span of 15 to 20 years (beginning in 2016). He notes that while comparing TV deals is difficult because of differing equity stakes negotiated by each team, but the contract should still top the Rangers' recent TV deal, which pays them $80MM per season. More highlights from Rosenthal…

  • The Cubs' offer to Masahiro Tanaka did not include an opt-out clause, according to Rosenthal. Knowing that they might not compete until 2016, the Cubs were wary of including a clause that would allow him to opt out shortly after their next competitive club hit the field.
  • Their recent signing of Matt Garza will allow the Brewers to move trade acquisition Will Smith (received in exchange for Norichika Aoki) to the bullpen. Milwaukee could still add another reliever this offseason, but they also want to take a look at Rule 5 lefty Wei-Chung Wang.
  • After missing out on a Major League deal with the Orioles due to concerns over his back, Tyler Colvin is weighing a number of minor league offers.
  • The Marlins and Rockies are both interested in former Reds right-hander Nick Masset, who has missed each of the past two seasons due to shoulder injuries.

Mariners Focusing On Complementary Players

After an offseason highlighted by the signing of Robinson Cano, the Mariners may be done adding high-priced talent, MLB.com's Greg Johns reports. GM Jack Zduriencik is looking for another starting pitcher, but probably won't want to pay the prices necessary to sign Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.

"I don't think we're going to jump in and invest where some of these dollars are going," Zduriencik says. "It just doesn't make sense when you take a 30-, 31-, 32-year old pitcher that wants five or six years and there is some history there of injury or inconsistencies."

Zduriencik said those risks were the reason the Mariners didn't strongly pursue Masahiro Tanaka (who is younger, but would have required a long commitment). He also suggests that it would have been difficult to outbid the Yankees. "We've made two major investments here in the last two years with Felix [Hernandez] and now Robinson," Zduriencik says. "To do that again would have been real challenging. And in the end, the numbers could have gone up. If we made that offer, who knows what the heck the Yankees would have done after that?"

Johns notes that the Mariners are "in the running" for starter Scott Baker, who missed all of 2012 and most of 2013 due to injury. Zduriencik also says the Mariners have had many talks with Nelson Cruz's representation, but the length and dollar value of the contract and the threat of losing a draft pick are all part of the Mariners' considerations.


Cafardo On Burnett, Tanaka, Morales, Matsuzaka

In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe checks in with GMs, players, writers, and scouts to help run down the best coaches in baseball.  On his list of bench coaches who are managers in waiting: Brad Mills of the Indians, Torey Luvullo of the Red Sox, Larry Bowa of the Phillies, Tim Flannery of the Giants, and the Brewers' Jerry Narron.  More from today's column..

  • The Pirates probably won’t go after a pitcher if A.J. Burnett retires.  Right now, Pittsburgh is looking for a full-time first baseman and would use the money that would have gone to the veteran toward that end.  Cafardo also notes that the Orioles could be a "wild card" in the situation since Burnett lives in Baltimore.  
  • While the bids of the other teams are still unknown, one GM threw out the following figures in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes: Yankees $155MM, Cubs $120MM, Diamondbacks $120MM, Dodgers $119MM, White Sox $100MM, Astros $100MM.
  • The Diamondbacks were head over heels for Tanaka, but the fact they weren’t on one of the coasts and they were in a smaller media market worked against them.
  • Scott Boras doesn't represent David Ortiz, but he tells Cafardo that he feels for them.  Boras sees some similarities between the Red Sox star and his own client Kendrys Morales.  Morales is seen by most clubs as a DH rather than a first baseman which is hurting his value.  Boras argues that Ortiz is the featured power hitter in Boston's lineup as a DH and believes that Morales can also provide value in that role.
  • There had been some talk that Daisuke Matsuzaka might go back to Japan to pitch, but the possibility of breaking into the Mets’ rotation with Matt Harvey out intrigued Matsuzaka enough to fight for a spot.
  • The Giants have been through a lot with Pablo Sandoval and even if he has a good season, this could be Pablo Sandoval's last in San Francisco.  Sandoval will be a free agent following the 2014 season.


East Notes: Phillies, Nationals, Tanaka

After a poor 2013 season and an underwhelming offseason, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. understands the criticism coming his way, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick writes. "People say, 'Don't you think you feel like you've built up equity? You guys had so many years of success.' I'm like, 'Not here in Philadelphia, my friend.' It doesn't work like that here," Amaro says. "We may have had one year of a pass, but our job is to try to get ourselves to the point where we're back again contending. Quickly." Here are more notes from the East divisions.

  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo hasn't made many phone calls recently, but he's still looking for ways to make his team better heading into spring training, MASNsports' Dan Kolko writes. Rizzo confirms that the Nationals were interested in Grant Balfour, but Balfour liked the proximity of the Rays to his home in Clearwater (Twitter links). Despite losing out on Balfour, the Nationals may not pursue another reliever, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets. A backup catcher, however, could still be a possibility, tweets MLB.com's Bill Ladson.
  • With Masahiro Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki, the 2014 Yankees will have more Japanese star power than any Major League team ever, writes FOX Sports' Jon Morosi. Kuroda, in particular, could be especially helpful as Tanaka adapts to U.S. baseball.

Crasnick’s Latest: Tanaka, Posting System, International Free Agents

ESPN's Jerry Crasnick offers an outstanding look at the ramifications of Masahiro Tanaka's seven-year, $155MM contract with the Yankees. According to Crasnick, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers did not hide his disappointment at the result in a conference call, but also said he didn't feel the process was flawed: "We don't feel cheated whatsoever. We don't feel as if we weren't provided the same opportunities as the Yankees. They just had a better offer, and that's where he chose to go. You move on." Here are some additonal highlights…

  • Pirates president Frank Coonelly told Crasnick that he was surprised the media made him out as someone fighting for the rights of all small-market teams for suggesting the posting fee for Japanese players be subject to the luxury tax. "The posting fee, by definition, is part of the cost of signing a player," said Coonelly. "I've always believed it should be considered part of a club's payroll for competitive balance tax purposes. I wasn't speaking on behalf of small market clubs. I was simply speaking on behalf of one of 30 major-league clubs."
  • One anonymous Major League executive told Crasnick that the new posting system completely goes against everything the league has done to keep the cost of player acquisition under control (e.g. draft slotting, capping international spending, the luxury tax). Said the executive: "This is antithetical to everything the teams have tried to do over the last 20 years. So why did they do it? They did it to target the Yankees and Dodgers, because everybody knew they would be interested in Tanaka. The idea of having a $20 million posting fee to allow other teams to compete was ridiculous."
  • That same executive contended that the new posting system will help drive up the prices for Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and future free agent starters. Coonelly completely disagreed: "Mr. Tanaka's contract may be a good comparable for the next outstanding young 25-year-old professional pitcher who comes over for Japan after a 24-0 season. I can't see him being much of a comparable for anybody else."
  • Crasnick also looks at the challenges that lie ahead in the international market, with one baseball official noting that should the next version of the posting system restructure the posting fee, it could lead to Japanese teams essentially selling players to MLB rather than trying to build competitive teams. Beyond that, Crasnick tackles the difference in how Latin American and Japanese free agents are treated by MLB. The entire article is well worth the read.

Quick Hits: Sizemore, Tanaka

Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs took a stab at evaluating Grady Sizemore, who signed yesterday with the Red Sox, but ultimately concludes that there is too much uncertainty to make a projection reasonable. Here are some more notes on Sizemore and another notable signing from yesterday:

  • The Reds offered a big league deal to Grady Sizemore and expected to land him, tweets Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. "He changed his mind," GM Walt Jocketty told Sheldon.
  • Discussing his decision to sign with the Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka expressed excitement with joining the game's most historically prominent club, the Associated Press reports (via the New York Times; video available via MLB.com). "They gave me the highest evaluation and are a world famous team," said Tanaka, who said his goal is to win a World Series in pinstripes. 
  • One oft-mentioned concern with Tanaka was his heavy usage in Japan. Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker posted Tanaka's actual pitch counts from last season, which he found in an Isao Chiba article from Shukan Baseball. Last year, the hurler threw 2,981 pitches over over 211 innings in 27 starts, or 109.7 pitches per start last year. (He also threw one inning in relief.) For reference, Clayton Kershaw — who is less than a year older than Tanaka — has exceeded 3,000 pitches in each of the last five seasons (last year, 3,428) while averaging around 104 to 105 pitches per start in his last four campaigns.
  • The Cubs' final offer to Masahiro Tanaka was for six years and $120MM, a source tells Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com (Twitter link). That amount does not include the $20MM release fee. 
  • Chicago was competitive in terms of years and dollars, a source tells David Kaplan of CSN Chicago and WGN Radio (Twitter link), but the Cubs refused to include an opt-out after four years. That position certainly seems to make sense from the perspective of the rebuilding Cubs, especially, since much of the allure of Tanaka is in his ability to deliver value at the back end of his contract.

Quick Hits: Rauch, O’Flaherty, Betancourt, Coffey

Jon Rauch is close to signing with a team, MLBTR's Zach Links reports (Twitter link).  The 35-year-old posted a 7.56 ERA in 16 2/3 IP with the Marlins last season and also made 10 appearances for the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate after signing a minor league contract with the O's in June.  Despite his outlier of a 2013 season, Rauch has been a solid right-handed bullpen arm for much of his career, posting a 3.65 ERA, 2.79 K/BB and 7.2 K/9 over 549 2/3 IP from 2004-2012.

Here's some more news as we wrap up a busy Wednesday around baseball…

  • The Braves only offered Eric O'Flaherty a one-year contract to remain with the team, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (via Twitter).  Though O'Flaherty underwent Tommy John surgery last May and will miss at least part of the 2014 season, he still scored a two-year, $7MM deal from the A's earlier today.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt will decide on his new club within the week, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link).  Betancourt was drawing interest from several teams, potentially even as a starter.
  • Also from Cotillo, there is "strong interest" in right-hander Todd Coffey.  At least nine of the 14 teams who attended Coffey's throwing session last week want to see his second session.  Coffey is looking to return to action after missing all of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
  • Much of the Indians' success at the plate last season was due to their lineup flexibility and use of bench players, a trait that MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince believes could be somewhat difficult to duplicate in 2014, though Carlos Santana's proposed attempt to play third base would be a great help in that department.
  • The Twins didn't have any interest in Grady Sizemore this winter, though the club checked in on him last summer, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter).
  • "Another issue with a physical does nothing to enhance the Orioles' reputation in the industry, which is taking a two-fisted beating this winter," Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes in regards to the news that Baltimore's agreement with Tyler Colvin has been delayed due to a problem with the outfielder's physical.  Kubatko wonders if the O's could be trying to get Colvin to sign a minor league contract instead of a Major League deal, as the club did last offseason when it wasn't satisifed with Jair Jurrjens' physical.
  • The Phillies liked Masahiro Tanaka and engaged in "cursory negotiations" with his representatives, but GM Ruben Amaro told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that the team wasn't prepared to go beyond five years to sign the Japanese righty.  The Phillies seem likely to go into 2014 with their current pitching options, as they only would've exceeded their payroll limitations for "an exception" like Tanaka.

NL West Links: D’Backs, Tanaka, Dodgers, Tomko

The Diamondbacks competed against some of MLB's largest markets for Masahiro Tanaka but ended up as one of the finalists for the Japanese righty.  FOX Sports Southwest's Jack Magruder and MLB.com's Steve Gilbert have the details from managing partner Ken Kendrick, team president Derrick Hall and GM Kevin Towers on how the Snakes courted Tanaka.  Though Tanaka ultimately signed with the Yankees, Kendrick feels the D'Backs "declared ourselves as committed to making a very significant offer to someone who can be a difference-maker to our club….The agent world understands that if we like a player, we will go after him. I don't think that's a bad thing."

Here's some more from around the NL West…

  • Towers reiterated that the team would still look to add "a top-of-the-rotation type guy" if one became available, and the general manager noted that more trade possibilities could open up with Tanaka now off the market.  That said, Towers and Hall said they were satisfied with their current pitching options and that their pursuit of Tanaka was a special case.  Magruder reported earlier today that Arizona wasn't planning to pursue other free agent starters given their high price tags.
  • The Diamondbacks' current TV rights contract expires after the 2015 season, and since the team expects to earn more TV money in its next deal, Hall felt the Snakes could afford to spend extra on Tanaka.  "This is not money that we had this past year or in the past," Hall said. "It's an anticipated increase in revenues. It was banking on the fact that — and it's been out there — that our television situation is going to change dramatically. With that, we were able to spread our wings a bit."
  • Dodgers GM Ned Colletti and several team scouts attending a private workout with Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, Baseball America's Ben Badler reports.  Badler profiled Castillo, a right-handed hitting outfielder with experience at second and third base, last month.  The 26-year-old may be months away from signing with a team, as he still to go through all of the procedural work required of Cuban players to reach the majors.
  • The Dodgers were "not anywhere close" in the bidding for Tanaka and were outbid by "a decent amount" by both the Yankees and Cubs, two sources tell Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.  While the Dodgers were obviously impressed enough with Tanaka to offer him a $100MM+ contract, "they're not convinced Tanaka is all that," Shaikin writes.  Since they didn't see Tanaka as a true ace and the Dodgers weren't desperate for pitching, they weren't willing to get into a bidding war.
  • Along these same lines, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon argues that the Dodgers don't need to pursue the likes of Matt Garza, Bronson Arroyo or other free agent starters since they could have a surplus of pitching if Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett are healthy.  Zach Lee and other minor league arms are also on hand for rotation depth.
  • Veteran right-hander Brett Tomko threw for the Padres earlier this offseason, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link).  Tomko is attempting a comeback and recently told MLBTR's Zach Links that he had spoken with at least 10 other Major League clubs, as well as a few Asian teams.  For more on Tomko's comeback, check out Links' interview with the 40-year-old righty.

Masahiro Tanaka Reactions And Fallout

The Masahiro Tanaka saga has come to an end in record-setting fashion. Earlier today, Tanaka agreed to an enormous seven-year, $155MM contract with the Yankees that contains an opt-out clause after the fourth season. Tanaka's $155MM guarantee is the second-largest in history for a free agent pitcher (the largest for a right-hander) and is also the second-largest pitcher contract in history in terms of new money guaranteed. The Tanaka buzz is unlikely to die down in the next couple of days, as pundits dissect the contract and what it means for the Yankees and the free agent market. Here's a look at some of the early reactions to and fallout from the Yankees' staggering investment…

  • New York GM Brian Cashman discussed the deal from the team's perspective in a conference call today, and MLBTR's Zach Links reported on the highlights.
  • ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Yankees' internal sense is that this concludes their pursuit of major free agents this offseason (Twitter link). 
  • It's little surprise that the team with the biggest need and one of the two biggest revenue bases from which to draw wound up landing Tanaka, writes ESPN's Keith Law (Insider required). Law feels that Tanaka will be one of the 20 to 25 best starters in Major League Baseball in 2014 and notes that the opt-out clause works to the Yankees' advantage, in a way.
  • SB Nation's Rob Neyer writes that while Tanaka is a significant upgrade for the Yankees, it's hyperbolic to suggest that this signing will change the balance of power in the American League.
  • The Cubs were the runner-up in the Tanaka sweepstakes, according to David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (Twitter link). Ultimately, the fact that they're not ready to win in 2014 ended their chances, he elaborates.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Yankees separated themselves, but not by a wide margin. The DodgersCubsWhite SoxAstros and Diamondbacks were all involved in the end. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, all teams that participated in the second round of bidding had to come in above the six-year, $120MM level.
  • Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com reports that the seventh guaranteed year is what separated the Yankees from the rest of the pack (on Twitter). According to Kaplan (via Twitter), other factors "trumped the possibility of more money," including the influence of Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda and the attractiveness of playing for the game's highest-profile franchise. 
  • The Dodgers wanted Tanaka, but drew a financial line, reports Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. As Dilbeck explains, the team does have financial limitations that it intends to abide by. "We went as far as we thought we could go," said GM Ned Colletti. 
  • For the White Sox, GM Rick Hahn says that reports of the team's efforts to land Tanaka largely seemed "accurate," reports Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Ultimately, however, Hahn says that the money reached a level that the club was not comfortable reaching. The resources that the club would have used to sign Tanaka remain available for a similarly attractive opportunity in the future, Hahn said, but he does not see any in the current market. (Links to Twitter.)
  • MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports that the Astros' offer to Tanaka exceeded $100MM. McTaggart adds that GM Jeff Luhnow, owner Jim Crane and seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens were among the Astros contingent that went to meet with Tanaka in Los Angeles. 
  • Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona was told that the Diamondbacks would not pursue other free-agent starters if they missed out on Tanaka, as the front office believes the asking prices to be too high (Twitter link). 
  • The Blue Jays were involved initially on Tanaka, but had "no way to compete" once it became clear that he would command seven years, reports John Lott of the National Post. Toronto had been willing to pay the $20MM fee, but was only interested in going to five years on the contract, Lott says. The team was also troubled by the opt-out clause, Lott tweets. Toronto figures to be among the most active teams on remaining free agent starters.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters, including MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, that his team was never very involved with Tanaka and did not make a formal offer (Twitter link). As Gonzalez further explains, the Halos will instead either try to fit Matt Garza within the team's approximately $15MM of 2014 budget space or hunt for a good deal from amongst the cheaper open-market options.
  • The Tanaka signing caps a nice run for Casey Close and the Excel Sports Management agency, notes Darren Heitner of Forbes. With an estimated 4% take, those two contracts would deliver a total of $14.8MM to the agency. Heitner notes also that Excel has worked out several notable deals with the Yankees in the past, given its representation of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. With its latest run of big contracts, says Heitner, Excel will surely climb the Forbes agency valuation chart.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.


Brian Cashman On Signing Masahiro Tanaka

Earlier today, the Yankees gave Masahiro Tanaka the largest ever open-market deal for a right-handed free agent pitcher – a seven-year, $155MM pact.  It's the sort of contract that Yankees fans have come to expect from the club over the years, but there were serious doubts heading into this offseason that they would be writing those kinds of checks after about a year of talk of staying under the $189MM luxury tax threshold.  Now, with free agents Tanaka, Carlos Beltran (three years, $45MM), Brian McCann (five years, $85MM), and Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153MM) in the fold, it's hard to see the Bombers staying beneath that line.  On today's conference call, I asked General Manager Brian Cashman when the Yankees decided that they would scrap their fiscally conservative plan. He responded:

"I think Hal Steinbrenner has spoken to that on a number of occasions now, the new basic agreement provided certain benefits if we were on our way to under $189MM, he conveyed that it was a goal, but he has reiterated that it wouldn't come at the expense of putting together a championship team. I think our fans can recognize that Hal Steinbrenner and Hank Steinbrenner [mean it] when they say they intend to put a team on the field that can compete on a yearly basis."

Indeed, the Yankees showed this winter that they were not going to accept a repeat of last season, which ended with an 85-77 finish and no postseason berth.  I asked Cashman if this was the last starting pitcher or significant free agent that the Bombers would add, and while he was largely non-committal, he did acknowledge that "much of the heavy lifting" has already taken place.

Tanaka was widely regarded as the best free agent pitcher on the open market this offseason, despite never having thrown a major league pitch.  His upside and his age made him an extremely hot commodity, but his odometer is of concern to some.  For instance, the Rakuten Golden Eagles allowed him to toss a 160-pitch complete-game loss in Game 6 of the Japanese championship series before throwing 15 pitches in relief the next day.  Cashman says that he and his staff have taken those concerns into account and were willing to forge ahead anyway:

"You always have concerns.  That's always something you can't ignore or deny.  But, I think that as you can see clearly by the competitve bidding on him as a free agent, with his age, talent, the scouting assessments on him, and the pitching market the way it is, it's certainly something that we're still willing to take the risk by acknowledging, yeah, there's a workload there."

The Yankees, despite their worries, came out on top in the bidding process, but Cashman isn't quite sure how much he beat the second-highest bidder by.  The GM was informed that the bidding was "very competitive," but he isn't sure how the other finalists (reportedly including the Dodgers, White Sox, Cubs, and D'Backs) stacked up.  He also confirmed that the opt-out clause included in the deal wasn't initially part of their pitch but instead was requested by agent Casey Close.  Close told Cashman that all of the other serious offers included an opt-out clause and would more-or-less be mandatory if he hoped to land the hurler.

When asked if he shied away from fellow Japanese star Yu Darvish before the 2012 season due to concerns over some of his fellow countrymen not making the grade, Cashman was adamant that he was very interested in his services.  The scouting department was extremely high on the right-hander, but the $50MM+ posting fee that was required was too rich for their blood at the time.  

This time around, the Yankees got their man with a much more reasonable $20MM fee, though the total commitment to Tanaka is much higher than the roughly $108MM the Rangers committed to land Darvish ($51.7MM posting fee and $56MM salary guarantee).  Needless to say, it's a sizable committment, and one that the Yankees made after years of homework. According to Cashman:

"We started evaluating him back in 2007, certainly paying close attention to him in the '09 [World Baseball Classic].  This year we went to 15 of his games including the WBC and we sent a scout to evaluate him in the playoffs as well.  We made a determined effort to know as much as we possibly could."