For Which Teams Does Tanaka Make the Most Sense?
Talent, warning signs, projections, hype and rumors aside, let’s look at the teams who are pursuing him and whether or not the amount of money he’s going to cost and muted expectations regarding his performance makes sense.
New York Yankees
The Yankees have to decide if Tanaka is an ace or not. As of now, he’s comparable to the decision they made in giving A.J. Burnett a 5-year, $82.5 million contract based on his potential and that they were so desperate for pitching and recovery from their last missed playoff season before 2013 in 2008. That first season of 2009, Burnett gave them 200+ innings and helped them win the World Series. What was important about that season, though, was that they didn’t sign Burnett and say, “Okay, now you have the talent to be an ace; we’re paying you like an ace; be an ace.” They’d also signed a legitimate, top-of-the-rotation horse from whom they could expect 230 innings and high-quality, gutty work in CC Sabathia. Burnett was signed to be a third starter behind Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.
The problem they have now is that while they still have Sabathia, he’s not what he was in 2009. They can start him on opening day and say they believe he can still give them 200 innings and be an All-Star caliber starter, but he’s not the same guy. As of now, they don’t have an ace. Signing Tanaka for $130 million will garner huge headlines and sell some tickets, but with their current holes and age, they need a known commodity. For the money it’s going to cost to get Tanaka, they can sign both Matt Garza and Bronson Arroyo – two pitchers with experience in the AL East, guts and fearlessness. They’ll know what they’re getting with them. With Tanaka, they don’t. In win-now mode with ancient players, many of whom are returning from severe injuries, they can’t withstand a learning curve from Tanaka because if it goes bad with Tanaka, they have no safety net.
After signing Shin-Soo Choo and trading for Prince Fielder, they have little room in their budget to sign Tanaka. They could certainly use him. If they would like to make room in their budget for him, they could trade Alex Rios and/or Elvis Andrus. That would be a situation in which they’re filling one hole simultaneously making another hole. While they’ve had great success with Yu Darvish and think outside the box, Tanaka is not a “need” player for the Rangers. They needed to bolster the offense and they did so significantly with Choo and Fielder. With their current starting rotation, they can get by without making a series of lateral moves for Tanaka.