Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is set to move to the Major League Baseball next season after his Japanese team, the Rakuten Eagles, announced Wednesday it was prepared to let him leave, reversing its earlier rejection. His 53 complete games and 18 shutouts in Japanese League play both would be tops in MLB among active pitchers. The current active leaders are CC Sabathia (37 complete games) and Tim Hudson (13 shutouts).
Eagles president Yozo Tachibana said the team took into consideration Tanaka’s “outstanding contribution to the team” since he joined the Eagles seven years ago. Tanaka’s perfect 24-0 record set a new mark in the history of Japanese professional baseball and brought a first league championship to the team based in Sendai, which is still recovering from the devastation wrought by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. For 30 days from the time a player is posted, any MLB team can attempt to sign the player. It pays the posting fee only if it signs the player. A player who is not signed may not be posted again until the following Nov. 1. Tachibana said his team is happy to retain Tanaka if he does not reach an agreement with an MLB team. Sources: ESPN [Insider needed and recommended] and Associated Press
Merry Christmas and happy Boxing Day to all; look what Santa brought us! Now available for auction, The Man With The Disappearing Splitter, Ma-Kun The Magnificent. Warning: Not there for the faint-hearted or those susceptible to pain from nine digit contracts. Go punk the Yankees. Z and the world will cheer you. What good is all that new media money if you don’t spend it? Ma-Kun welcome to The Show, now come over and join our Cano.
“I’m grateful to the team for allowing me to try. Now I’ve made a first step,” he said. “I hope I would receive offers from as many teams as possible so I have a wider option.” Masahiro Tanakaa
When Rakuten was formed in 2004, Hisashi Iwakuma was the one veteran who insisted he play for the expansion team, before Seattle stardom. Now we need to know Tanaka’s agent, whether he wants the West Coast and tie to Iwakuma, who saved the Rakuten franchise. From:Peter Gammons at Gammons Daily
The news of Tanaka’s posting will be welcomed warmly by the MLB Players Association. The union and a number of player agents had grown concerned about the effect of Rakuten’s indecision on the marketplace for top free-agent pitchers Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza. All remained unsigned as of Christmas, presumably because teams had been waiting to see if the pitching market would include Tanaka. Now they know. At a time of year when teams typically wrap up their offseason shopping, the 2013-2014 pitching market is completely open for the very first time. Source: Jon Morosi at Fox Sports
Merry Christmas everyone! The only thing I want this Christmas is Ma-kun in a Mariners uniform. From: Mariners Minors (I’ve got an Amen for that.)
Agreeing to post Tanaka is half the battle. Now where does he go? Not as easy as submitting the highest bid anymore, there will be competition now. From: Jason Coskrey at the Japan Times
Tanaka could take a lower offer if he prefers the city/team situation. Kuroda’s best financial offer came from the Royals when he first moved to MLB. From: Patrick Newman at NPB Tracker
Comment From Todd: Which team has improved the most so far this off-season?
Jeff Sullivan: Honestly probably the Mariners just because of the Cano signing. But there’s a lot of offseason left.
AL West Commentary
When coupled with the Ian Kinsler for $138MM of Prince Fielder‘s contract, Jon Daniels‘s offseason has raised some quizzical eyebrows. The previously trepidatious Rangers added two players with relatively limited ceilings–optimistically each one could maybe put up a roughly 5.0 WAR season, but that’s in the first year that each is a Ranger–and both are under contract through the 2020 season. The Rangers are slated to pay Fielder and Choo a combined $268MM over the course of the next seven years, and as men much smarter than I have asserted, it’s hard to argue that either one is a superstar at the beginning of their respective deals. Source: Josh Duggan at MLB Daily Dish
“The Rangers have aggressively spent on two (Choo and Fielder) flawed, declining players who aren’t really stars. Both are good, above average players, and each projects for about +3 WAR next year, but I don’t know, I think $270 million should buy you more than an expectation of about +6 WAR and some serious decline afterwards. They both make the Rangers better, but almost any combination of $270 million in spending would have made the Rangers better, and I think there are a lot of combinations that would have been preferable to the route they ended up taking.” Source: Dave Cameron at FanGraphs
So they said
“There’s no point in me really thinking about where my perfect place is, because I don’t know who’s interested,” Arroyo said. “It’s like going to a party and the whole premise is to find a wife. There are 10 girls there, and three of them are smoking hot, but they don’t even look in your direction twice, so there’s no point in going after them. Then maybe somebody else comes along who didn’t seem so attractive at first, and you like what she’s saying and you think, ‘Hey, maybe this is the one.’ That’s the way I see it. I can’t pick and choose teams. They have to choose me, and I realize it could take a long time for them to get where they need to be. I’ve been fine, but if it’s January 15th and I’m still spinning my wheels, I’ll probably change my tune.” —Bronson Arroyo
Mariner’s potential off-season targets
One exec last week said he believes Tanaka will get a deal in the $150m range. Also: Wonder how Yu Darvish will feel about the new system? From: Buster Olney at ESPN
Great Britain’s Michael Roth, who has made his Major League debut for the Los Angeles Angels this year and pitched for GB in last year’s World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Regensburg, spoke up for Baseball reinstatement into the Olympic Games in an article of Inside the Games.
“That would be awesome and I think Tokyo has the power to actually do that,” the 23-year old told Inside the Games during a visit to MLB’s Europe, Africa and Middle East headquarters in London. Whoever is leading the charge with the Olympic Committee, they’re going to argue that there’s no need to build a baseball field. We already have the field and all of the infrastructure provided by the Japanese League. It’s a big sport in Japan and big business for them – they’re gonna want it in the Olympics and I think they will try and fight hard for it.” Source: Inside the Games
General managers in the top Korean baseball league are considering abolishing the salary cap imposed on foreign players, a senior league official said Friday, after a series of offseason transactions raised questions about the rule’s effectiveness.
According to Yang Hae-young, secretary general of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), general managers of the 10 clubs agreed “in principle” to get rid of the current cap of US$300,000 during their meeting this week. Yang insisted, however, that no immediate change is forthcoming. “The officials will try to come up with a series of alternatives, such as introducing a foreign player tryout or increasing the salary cap,” Yang said. “We will all discuss them at a separate meeting (of the general managers) early next month.”
The KBO first opened its doors to foreign players in 1998, with their initial salary cap set at $120,000. The figure was raised to $200,000 in 1999 and then to $300,000 in 2004. Foreign players may only be signed to one-year contracts, and if they are to be renewed, their annual salary must not be raised by more than 25 percent. League officials have said they put the cap in place to prevent wealthier clubs from signing expensive stars and to avoid excessive salary inflation.
In recent years, however, the KBO clubs have faced allegations that they weren’t honoring the salary cap and that they were paying their imported stars more money under the table. An official with a KBO team, requesting anonymity, told Yonhap News Agency that it was the “worst kept secret in the league” that teams were not abiding by the salary cap. Also, foreign newspapers or beat writers of the players’ former minor league teams have often revealed the new signees’ salary figures that easily exceeded the cap. The KBO’s decision last week to add an extra roster spot for foreign players, starting in 2014, set off a flurry of offseason signings, as clubs scrambled to add an experienced arm or bat. Teams can now carry up to three foreigners on their active rosters. The NC Dinos and the KT Wiz, the two expansion teams, can have a maximum of four foreign players in their first two seasons.
Katsuhiko Kumazaki, a former Tokyo special prosecutors squad chief, will become the Commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball Organization (NPB), with his appointment to be officially decided at an extraordinary meeting of professional baseball team owners scheduled for Thursday, sources have said.
By The Numbers
CC Sabathia is the majors’ current active leader in complete games with 37. Tom Seaver was 24 when he pitched his 37th complete game. From: Larry Burke
Rakuten has now been screwed twice on the Posting System. First Iwakuma, now Tanaka. From: Patrick Newman at NPB Tracker
The Dodgers are in agreement with right-hander Jamey Wright on a one-year deal. Wright, who will celebrate his 39th birthday tomorrow, was excellent in his age-38 season with the Rays, pitching to a 3.09 ERA with 8.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a 50.8 percent ground-ball rate. The 70 innings were the most Wright had thrown since his 2009 campaign with the Royals.
The Toronto Blue Jays have re-signed infielder Munenori Kawasaki to a minor league contract that includes an invitation to major league spring training, according to a team announcement. Kawasaki, 32, had his $1 million team option declined by the Jays after the season and will instead return for less money on a minor league contract. He hit only .229 with 1 HR and 24 RBI in 96 big league games, but provided one of the highlights of the Jays’ season in a post-game interview after hitting a walk-off double to beat the Orioles in late May. Source: Chris Cotillo at MLB Daily Dish
(When Muni finishes his baseball career, the Ms should hire him to replace the Moose; he’s far more entertaining.)