Are the Phillies really in on Masahiro Tanaka?
Masahiro Tanaka's posting price will be $20 million, the Rakuten Golden Eagles are finally letting him go, and all that's left to do now is speculate endlessly on which MLB team will land the coveted Japanese pitching prospect.
It's tough to look at the Phillies and not see that they could use some help, but it's a little harder to look at the rotation and feel like that's where it should go. There are other parts of this team that could use a boost, such as the offense, or the bullpen, or the offense a second time. A Cole Hamels/Cliff Lee-topped rotation is still admirable, even if it also includes Kyle Kendrick, Roberto Hernandez, and a mysterious 27-year-old Cuban whose initial signing dropped dramatically when it was revealed that he had health problems.
They could use help from a pitcher who just went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA, but it's just not the first place they could add it. But that hasn't stopped their name from popping up when it comes to the discussions on Tanaka.
From a general baseball standpoint, there's massive appeal: he's young, he's pitched dominantly (teams don't seem skittish about his translation from NPB to MLB), and it only costs $20 million to talk to him (he's projected to make $17 million per year). The price is low so that every team can get a shot, and the Phillies aren't above doing so.
"There are many Yankee-esque qualities here – notably the presence of an older/declining core and worry about holding the attention of a Northeast fan base that has come to expect stars and winning. There are many failings around the diamond, but a rotation headed by Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Tanaka would make up for a lot of sins while possibly re-energizing that fan base."
Long ago, being called "the Yankees of the NL" at least meant you were probably winning. Now it's more synonomous with that "aging core" mantra being muttered instead of "infield."
Anyway, yes, Hamels-Lee-Tanaka would be fun. Maybe Miguel Gonzalez could be more than a dangerous mystery as well. But there are no shortages of examples in Philadelphia of a team needing two or three runs to win a well-pitched game. For instance.
Tanaka is the best player left out there, and if Ruben Amaro wanted to start planning for the future, and maybe he should start planning for the future, but whatever, then maybe be more dogged in his pursuit. But he seems calm and confident in the 2014 Phillies for some reason, so chasing Tanaka in the midst of contenders like the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, and rebuilding projects with exciting youth (Cubs), and even money-flinging rich uncles (Mariners), would be unnatural. He wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't at least take a flyer, but Amaro more than likely won't be putting together any intense wooing.
And from the other side - what would Tanaka even want in Philadelphia? He's interested in relocating to a different country to play ball; if he maintains any of his elite hurling in the transition, he's not going to want to waste away in a rebuilding project that doesn't know it's a rebuilding project for a bunch of years, seeing his name in trade rumors.
Assuming Tanaka and his agent do their research, Philadelphia, a franchise quickly falling and questionably led, wouldn't qualify as a top choice. In the end, if Amaro really wanted Tanaka; really, really wanted him, he would most likely only succeed by offering an absurd amount of money. Which, as we know, he is want to do if he sees it as necessary. But the conservative hand he's played all winter has not indicated he's got much up his sleeve.