According to Baseball America's Ben Badler, the "scouting consensus" is that Masahiro Tanaka is better than Jose Abreu. A potential No. 2 starter is seen to be more valuable than a player who is limited to first base or designated hitter only. Now that it's being reported that Jose Abreu is on the verge of signing a six-year $68 million contract with the White Sox, Tanaka, the better free agent, will likely get even more than that.
It was believed that Masahiro Tanaka could end up signing a contract similar to, or even greater than, the one Yu Darvish signed. The Texas Rangers locked him up to a six-year $60 million contract and now that Abreu has eclipsed that, Tanaka and his agent are going to demand something even higher than Darvish and maybe even Abreu. Now teams who have lost out on the first international free agent prize of the offseason could go all in on an even better consolation prize.
On top of that price is the posting bid. It has been long understood that the millions of dollars that clubs have to pay to the Japanese club ends up hurting the final value of the player's contract. The Rangers paid $51.7 million just to obtain the rights to speak with Darvish and dump more money on him. Right now the Japanese posting system has expired, so MLB and NPB are going to have to renegotiate a deal in order for Tanaka to officially post and it's been rumored that changes could be coming.
One change would be that more than one team can "win" the posting bid, allowing up to three teams to negotiate with the player at a time. Now Tanaka won't have just one offer to take or leave, if these changes occur the Yankees will have to change tactics and compete like they are signing any other free agent. $10 million a year for Darvish is a steal, but Tanaka isn't supposed to be as good as Darvish is, he doesn't have the strikeout power or the 200+ inning durability that Darvish has shown. Paying Tanaka $11, $12, or $13 million begins to eliminate some of the value that these Japanese pitchers represented under the old posting system.
This is happening independently of Jose Abreu, but it's still not unrelated. If Abreu is upping the ante on international free agents, or really free agents in general, and the new posting system allows for more competition, Tanaka could end up hitting $70 million or higher and it wouldn't be that surprising to see a seventh year dangled around by someone.
If a bidding war sparks up against the Yankees, I don't know how much they will go for an untested multi-million dollar investment. They shied away before on players that didn't require $50 million up front, like Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, so now Tanaka could essentially become the worst of both the international free agent market and the Japanese free agent market – untested talent at a premium price, plus $50 million.
Tanaka should be a slam dunk for the Yankees. With the position they are currently they can have high end young talent without having to draft and develop it. All they need is money and they have a lot of that coming off the books this offseason. The only hold up would be the Yankees' inability to commit.