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New York Yankees Expected to Heavily Pursue Japanese Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka This Winter

October 11th, 2013 at 8:07 PM
By Doug Rush

The New York Yankees starting pitching situation is not in the best situation heading into the off-season and into the 2014 season.

Andy Pettitte announced his retirement from baseball after the 2013 season, Phil Hughes is a free agent and not expected back and Hiroki Kuroda is also a free agent and his status for the following year is also up in the air, as he could return to his old team in the Los Angeles Dodgers or completely ditch the United States and return home to pitch in Japan.

So it would make sense for the Yankees to be interested in one of the high-profile free agent pitchers once he hits the open market, which is what the team is expected to happen very soon.

George King of the New York Post has reported that the Yankees will be heavily involved and likely to make a tremendous offer for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, a 24-year-old starter who will likely receive a nice contract offer once he becomes available to MLB teams.

Tanaka is a 24-year-old who has been pitching professionally in Japan since he was 18-years-old and has a 95-35 career record and just finished a 2013 season where he went 20-0 with a 1.24 ERA in 23 starts with 181 innings and 155 strikeouts. The Yankees have sent assistant general manager Billy Eppler and pro scout and former Seattle Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu to Japan several times to watch him pitch and like what they saw.

Since Tanaka i under contract to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, there would have to be a posting process; similar to an auction for teams to have the rights to talk to Tanaka, in which an MLB team pays a certain amount of money just to negotiate with the pitcher, then they have to work out a contract with that player; something that has been done with guys like Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kei Igawa and Yu Darvish in the past.

The Yankees might have thought to be a bit gun-shy as far as going after Japanese pithers considering they got burned with Igawa back in 2007, as they paid a combined $50-plus million for Igawa to be a minor-league pitcher for five years. Before then, the Yankees signed Hideki Irabu 16 years earlier, and he was another Japanese starter that also didn't work out well for the Yankees, but even with their history with these players, it won't stop the team from going after Tanaka.

King said that the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers are all expected to be players for Tanaka's services. Some feel that the posting fee alone could be as much as $60 million considering some people feel that Tanaka could end up becoming the best pitcher to ever come out of Japan, but the Yankees have heard this before since Irabu was supposed to be the "Nolan Ryan of Japan."

Tanaka is a fastball-curveball pitcher with excellent command who throws a lot of strikes; as his fastball can get up as high as 95 miles per hour and his curveball drops about 20 miles slower, which has been a reason for his success in this past Japanese season. With that kind of skill, some think Tanaka could get more than what Darvish did from the Rangers last winter.

The Rangers spent a combined $111.7 million to land the 27-year-old Darvish last winter; the posting fee was $60 million and then the team signed him to a six-year, $51.7 million deal. With the Rangers spending that much, people can only wonder how much Tanaka could end up getting from teams like the Yankees and others this coming winter.ph

photo credit: bgm8383 via photobucket

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Tags: Baseball, MLB, New York, New York Yankees

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