How can a World Series champion improve and try to win again? It starts with upgrading the starting rotation. A whole slew of Major League teams have shown tremendous interest in Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka, who is now eligible for posting until January 24. The team that signs him will have to pay his current team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan, the $20 million posting fee in addition to the huge contract that Tanaka will command.
Very interested teams include the Cubs, Dodgers, Angels, Rangers, Yankees, and Mariners. We have not heard much from the Red Sox about trying to land Tanaka — until now. The Boston Globe‘s Nick Cafardo says that it should not surprise Red Sox fans to see team president Larry Lucchino and general manager Ben Cherington “quietly slip into this,” meaning the Tanaka fray. Cafardo says, “One [unidentified] American League scout suggested it’s the perfect time for the Red Sox to strike.”
Granted, I am not in the discussions, but I do not see why Boston should go for Tanaka. I will not rehash Tanaka’s success in Japan — just give my opinion. The Red Sox have a very deep starting rotation already: Jon Lester, Ryan Dempster, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, and Jake Peavy. The starters combined for a record of 67-42, 3.84 ERA (4th in the A.L.), and 1.29 WHIP (also 4th). They were 3rd in innings pitched (984), so durability is not a big issue. Buchholz is healthy, and Doubront can start or relieve. Speaking of relieving, the Red Sox have a dynamic bullpen, and they just added Edward Mujica to the mix.
If they did bring in Tanaka, then the most sensible move is to let Peavy and Dempster go by trade or release to make room for Tanaka, but that is not always as easy as it seems.
In addition, Tanaka will likely command at least $17 million per year. Boston already has seven players making over $10 million per year, and they have committed $109 million to Pedroia. They are also in contract extension talks with David Ortiz, who will get around $15 million in 2014 and get the same in 2015 with the extension he seeks. The Cubs appear as the highest bidders at this point, and the Yankees have already spoken with Tanaka’s representatives.
Cafardo, though, quotes the scout as giving financial reasons for going after Tanaka. Cafardo writes:
“’They have veteran pitchers in the final year or two years remaining on their deals,’ he said. ‘They’ll be clearing out a lot of payroll soon. I know they feel they have good young pitching on the horizon, but Tanaka should be a very good No. 2 or No. 3 starter on any staff. I would think with their emphasis on pitching, they would get into it.’”
Still, though, those salary moves are a few years away. I cannot see Cherington forfeiting future revenues to add one more player when they already have a championship-caliber team with very close to the same roster the very year after winning it all.
I do not believe that the Red Sox should go after Masahiro Tanaka. I think they should use their money to concentrate on re-signing Stephen Drew and developing their farm system for when those players the scout discussed do start to leave Boston.