Yankees expected to be big bidders for Masahiro Tanaka

Koji Watanabe

According to George A. King III, the Yankees are expected to be serious bidders on Masahiro Tanaka of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. With the Yankees rotation in complete disarray now that they have lost Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, and Phil Hughes and with CC Sabathia's dismal 2013 season, the team needs to improve their pitching badly.

After news surfaced that Tanaka was interested in being posted, the Yankees sent assistant general manager Billy Eppler and pro scout Don Wakamatsu to watch him pitch over the season. Tanaka had a fastball that could reach 95 mph deep into games and possesses a curveball that is 20 mph slower than his fastball. The opinion is that he could be the best pitcher to come out of Japan ever:

"He is better than Darvish because he is a strike thrower,'' the scout said. "Overall, Darvish's stuff might be a little bit better, but this guy knows how to pitch. He is like Kuroda, he has a lot of guts. He throws four pitches but when it gets to [stone]-cutting time, it's fastball and splitter.''

Since he isn't eligible for free agency under Nippon Professional Baseball, he will have to go through the posting process. It isn't permitted to begin until after November 1, but if the Japanese series goes to seven games, the season will officially end on the third.

Several executives believe that the winning bid will be in the $60 million range and his actual contract could be even higher than what the Rangers paid for Yu Darvish. In 2011, the Rangers paid a $60 million posting fee and signed Darvish to a six-year, $51.7 million contract. King says the final price for Tanaka could be a contract in the five-year, $60 million or higher.

In 2013, Tanaka had a perfect 20–0 season with a 1.24 ERA in 181 innings and 23 starts (seven complete games). He hasn't posted and ERA over 2.00, a BB/9 over 2.0, or given up double digit home runs since the 2010 season. The 24-year-old led the league in Wins, ERA, and walks per nine innings (1.3), while also placing second in complete games and innings, and third in WHIP. Unfortunately, his strikeout per nine innings has fallen in each of the last three seasons and was a career low 7.7 this season.

Whatever the final cost may be, this could be the Yankees' best chance to strengthen their pitching rotation with both a high end talent and a young stud player. While the organization has been gun shy about expensive international free agents in recent years, Tanaka not only looks to be different, but it looks like the Yankees are also approaching it differently too.

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