• The Tanaka Factor

    I'll say this much for Masahiro Tanaka: his timing is good. The Japenese star just put together the best statistical season for a pitcher in NPB history, and will be coming to the States just as Major League Baseball is receiving a massive influx of revenue from new media deals.

    Tanaka has been on an incredible run. After starring for Japan in the World Baseball Classic in the spring, he went 22-0 with a 1.23 ERA for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. At season's end, he came on as closer to protect a one-run lead in his team's pennant-clinching victory.

    He's a star on the level of Yu Darvish, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideo Nomo. He's only 24 years old. He has filed for international free agency. And there are plenty of major-league teams ready to spend big on pitching.

    The Twins are one of them.

    There are several reasons to believe the Twins will be active players for Tanaka this winter. Jim Pohlad has repeatedly insisted that he is more than open to aggressive financial measures in order to improve the club, while Terry Ryan has been typically wary of the free agent route.

    Ryan's main concern -- one that has been echoed by Pohlad -- is that there's great peril in handing high-dollar multi-year contracts to aging pitchers, who are notoriously susceptible to injury and decline.

    But of course, Tanaka is just entering his physical prime. He is only 15 months older than Alex Meyer, the organization's top pitching prospect. And his success in the Nippon Pro Baseball league has been otherworldly. In seven seasons, he is 95-35 with a 2.32 ERA, 52 complete games and 18 shutouts. He is renowned for his outstanding command, and his featured split-finger fastball is considered by scouts to be a plus major-league pitch.

    Of course, dominant numbers in Japan don't always portend effectiveness in the majors. The Twins have seen that on some level with Tsuyoshi Nishioka, but the more relevant cases would be players like Matsuzaka, Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa. There's plenty of risk involved, especially when you consider that Tanaka could well command an investment that rivals (or even exceeds) the $112 million shelled out by Texas for Darvish two years ago.

    The Rangers' contract with Darvish is for six years and $60 million -- hardly outrageous by MLB standards -- but Texas also needed to win bidding rights with a $52 million posting fee for the hurler's Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters.

    Undoubtedly, the Golden Eagles are licking their chops anticipating the bids that might come in for Tanaka given his age and status. Several large-market major-league teams appear poised to spend heavily on starting pitching this offseason, most notably the New York Yankees.

    As the posting system for Japanese players involves blind bids, Ryan and the Twins would need to send out a very, very significant offer in order to have a legitimate chance of landing the pinnacle of the international market.

    Could they be gun-shy about playing this game? That would be understandable, since they were burned on the Nishioka deal. Then again, they must feel some sense of remorse for missing out on Hisashi Iwakuma, for whom they finished runner up in the post bidding back in 2010. The Twins clearly had interest in Iwakuma but didn't do what it took to bring him in, and they've since watched him go 23-11 with a 2.84 ERA in two seasons with Seattle.

    The cost to claim Tanaka will be in another realm entirely from Nishioka (winning bid: $5 million) or Iwakuma ($19 million). I suspect he may break the current record held by Darvish at $51.7 million. That's an awful lot of money to pay simply to negotiate with a player, at which point the Twins would have to make another massive financial commitment.

    Perhaps too spicy a pepper to swallow. There's not much in the history of the franchise or the commanding GM to suggest that such a splashy play would be on the table. But with the Twins admitting they have surplus money to spend, and with Tanaka fitting so well into their emerging timeline, I wouldn't be surprised if the club made a bid they feel is quite aggressive in order to take a shot at the intriguing righty.

    Whether or not that's aggressive enough isn't in their hands. It could very well turn out that the Twins' ability to gamble on Tanaka is dictated more by the level of interest from other (far richer) teams than their own.
    This article was originally published in blog: The Tanaka Factor started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 138 Comments
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      But in the reality of MLB, front-loading a contract if you have the ability to do it makes way more sense.
      Yes. Especially considering the posting fee won't be counting toward payroll when the Twins may actually be concerend about extending any hypothetical young stud.

      It's basically a reverse Bonilla. Damn that Mets contract makes me laugh every time. Take the hit now and it will be off the books this time next year.
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Rangers said months ago they aren't interested in Tanaka so take them off the list of potential buyers. After throwing 50+ million put of pocket for Darvish they might not have another $40+M to do so again on Tanaka.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmb0252 View Post
      Rangers said months ago they aren't interested in Tanaka so take them off the list of potential buyers. After throwing 50+ million put of pocket for Darvish they might not have another $40+M to do so again on Tanaka.
      They also are reported to have their eye on a 2B who wants $300 million. Texas loves them some middle infield.
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      They also are reported to have their eye on a 2B who wants $300 million. Texas loves them some middle infield.
      Whoa...who is that?
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      The trick to winning this one is winning the posting fee. After that, only the winner can negotiate with Tanaka, and the contract will typically run 5/6 years for an amount fairly similar to the posting fee.
      That might change in time for Tanaka:

      Sources: Major changes coming to Japanese player posting system
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      If the Twins are going to spend big, this is the way to do it. The team can eat $50m+ in one season and not hamstring themselves with a $20m+ yearly salary 4-5 years from now. They have the money just sitting there, having underspent for two consecutive seasons. Tanaka is 24 years old.

      With that said, still not gonna happen. Sigh.
      I think you have a nice idea here and I think it would appeal to the Twins. The posting fee might not count as salary. Unfortunatley, the twins have to follow GAAP and I doubt the IRS would accept the accelerated write-off. So, it would appear the expense is going to be amortized over the lenght of the contract. In other words, the expense will be there but no recognized as salary. Of course, this is just my interpretation. I don't really know.
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      Whoa...who is that?
      I hadn't heard the Texas rumor, but the only 2B I know who wants $300M is Cano. That sounds like a long, long long shot to me - the rumor was probably started by Jay-Z to get the Yankees moving.
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      I think you have a nice idea here and I think it would appeal to the Twins. Unfortunatley, the twins have to follow GAAP and I doubt the IRS would accept the accelerated write-off.
      The posting fee (paid to the old team) and the salary are two separate items. The posting fee is a one-time expense, and, while I'm not a CPA, I would bet that it would be accounted differently. I think the real concern is the budget, anyway. Right now there is room in the budget. A few years down the road some ofthe yong players will (hopefully) start to get expensive. (By "hopefully" I mean that if Buxton and Sano aren't getting expensive in a few years, that means they were busts and the Twins have big problems.)
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      This beautiful dream is hard to wake up from to the bitter reality of this team.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by gil4 View Post
      The posting fee (paid to the old team) and the salary are two separate items. The posting fee is a one-time expense, and, while I'm not a CPA, I would bet that it would be accounted differently. I think the real concern is the budget, anyway. Right now there is room in the budget. A few years down the road some ofthe yong players will (hopefully) start to get expensive. (By "hopefully" I mean that if Buxton and Sano aren't getting expensive in a few years, that means they were busts and the Twins have big problems.)
      I think it would help get this done if it could be written off the first year. And, I recognize they are two separate transactions. GAAP would generally require the expense be recognized consistent with the benefit, service, etc. I think that is pretty clear the life of the contract. The risks scares me a bit but wow what a boost this guy would be to our team if his ability transfers to MLB as some have projected.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      Whoa...who is that?
      I've seen multiple places list the Rangers as the most likely team to get Cano away from the Yankees including an ESPN writer. Reports are they tried to trade for him mid-season too. I could link sites but you can trust me right? Or if not me at least a Google search?
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      I've seen multiple places list the Rangers as the most likely team to get Cano away from the Yankees including an ESPN writer. Reports are they tried to trade for him mid-season too. I could link sites but you can trust me right? Or if not me at least a Google search?
      Can't see how that would make any sense. They already have Kinsler through 2018 and nowhere to put Profar.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Can't see how that would make any sense. They already have Kinsler through 2018 and nowhere to put Profar.
      The could sign Cano and try and trade Profar or Kinsler. Kinsler would be harder to trade, but still... Cano is an upgrade at 2B. Tigers had Cabrera at 1B, Fielder was available, they got Fielder anyway..even with Vmart coming back this year and getting out from behind the plate.

      Some teams are always looking to improve wherever they can...whenever they can.
    1. TPetter's Avatar
      TPetter -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      To be fair, Daisuke Matsuzaka was pretty good his first two years. He threw 200+ innings those two years. Then all the wear and tear from pitching so much in Japan added up and he was never 100% again after that. His second year, he went 18-2 with a 2.90 ERA.

      I'm not against the Twins going after Tanaka because it's not my money. But, you could get two very good #2s for the same money.
      Are there two very good #2s available and would the Twins be able to sweet talk two good pitchers into coming to Minnesota?
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      This is going to be 6 years and $120 million total. Maybe even pushing to $132 million.

      There is no planet on which the Twins are going to do anything like this. And it's unfortunate.
      Agree about the planet part, but I'd rather have them sign Josh Johnson & Phil Hughes to 3 year contracts for the same $ than Tanaka. $20 mil a year for 6 years, is a Mauer-like albatross of a contract for an unproven player who is not Mauer...
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Agree about the planet part, but I'd rather have them sign Josh Johnson & Phil Hughes to 3 year contracts for the same $ than Tanaka. $20 mil a year for 6 years, is a Mauer-like albatross of a contract for an unproven player who is not Mauer...
      What is the word on Johnson in terms of projected contract? Is he likely to pursue a one-year deal in an attempt to rebuild value or look for a team willing to take a chance on him?
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      What is the word on Johnson in terms of projected contract? Is he likely to pursue a one-year deal in an attempt to rebuild value or look for a team willing to take a chance on him?
      Hard to tell. He just had arthroscopic surgery on the elbow to clean up some bone spurs. He will be ready by ST. There is some question on whether the Blue Jays make a qualifying offer, but still I see him signing for a 3 year some place. And if the Jays make a qualifying offer and the Twins sign him, the Twins will lose only their second round pick (which is losing less than what they lost when they re-signed Capps)...
    1. drivlikejehu's Avatar
      drivlikejehu -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      I think it would help get this done if it could be written off the first year. And, I recognize they are two separate transactions. GAAP would generally require the expense be recognized consistent with the benefit, service, etc. I think that is pretty clear the life of the contract. The risks scares me a bit but wow what a boost this guy would be to our team if his ability transfers to MLB as some have projected.
      Completely incorrect. Comments of this nature should probably be avoided without the appropriate background, because the result can be to mislead readers who don't know otherwise.

      Human beings are not capital assets and cannot be depreciated or amortized. Also, the 'matching principle' of expense recognition does not apply to periodic expenses such as MLB salaries.

      The timing of the expense is not terribly important to the Twins because they run a profit in any event. Obviously, front loading a contract may result in lower profits in the short term and higher in the long term, but unless tax rates change significantly the overall effect is minimal.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      The reports I have read on Tanka are a he generally pitches in the low 90's has a slider and splitter but neither are ++ pitches. He has good control but his fastball does not have the best movement and he can become a Fly Ball pitcher. He benefited greatly because Japan "deadened" their ball this year. If he signs with the Twins, we might be seeing him get that Neck injury from watching the ball fly out of the park - especially in places like Chicago. I don't know if he is worth a triple digit investment.

      Furthermore, the posting process could drag out until March. I would hate to have the Twins have all their FA eggs in this basket and it not pan out.

      The best outcome would be the Twins get aggressive with Free Agents and sign guys while other teams wait on the Tanka.
    1. FSP's Avatar
      FSP -
      Quote Originally Posted by clutterheart View Post
      He benefited greatly because Japan "deadened" their ball this year.
      I heard Japan "livened" their ball. That is part of the reason why Wladimir Balentien destroyed their HR record. Also why their commissioner stepped down in shame recently.
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