Speculation is rampant concerning the final destination for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, the 25-year-old right-hander from the Rakuten Eagles in Japan.
This is the pitcher who was 24-0 with the Eagles last year, with a 1.27 ERA, both very attractive numbers.
I know speculation is rampant because, in addition to seeing it all over the blogosphere, my South County friends who are either Red Sox and Yankee fans, are all talking about it.
Were I a betting man, and I'm not, the Red Sox don't appear to be in the hunt. Right now, the Sox, in my opinion, should be more concerned with extending pitcher Jon Lester's contract. Shelling out an inordinate amount of money, say $100 million, for Tanaka shouldn't be on their radar screen.
I believe that Boston's previous experience does factor into this. In case you've forgotten, the Sox shelled out a total of $103.1 million (including a $51 million posting fee) for a six-year contract for Japanese star Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2007.
I thought at the time the signing was going to be worth it. Matsuzaka was a big guy, 6-3, and he had a nice array of pitches (who remembers the legendary "gyro ball?"). One of these was a 96-plus mph live fastball that had every team very excited. He seemed to have the temperament to play in the majors. He seemed to be a good fit.
I was wrong. I will still maintain that Matsuzaka was an integral part of Boston's 2007 World Series championship. He pitched -- and won -- Game 7 of the ALCS against the Indians.
At that time, my argument, which I believe I can still make, is, what is the cost of a world championship? Clearly, Matsuzaka contributed greatly to that championship. Had the Sox not had him, I don't know if they would have had enough pitching to win it all.
But just as clearly, he went downhill after that. His first year was by far his best year. He wasn't horrible: His career through seven years in the majors is 53-40 with a 4.52 ERA. But to be honest, sending him to the Mets last year was very much addition by subtraction.
Certainly, there is no way to determine whether or not Tanaka will have that kind of career with whichever team with whom he signs.
Major league scouts opine that Tanaka appears to have more in common with the Rangers' Yu Darvish, who, so far, has been a very good investment for Texas. For the past two years, Darvish has been 29-18 with 498 strikeouts and 169 walks.
The one factor that major league teams now take a very hard look at when it comes to scouting Japanese pitchers, however, is their workload. Pitchers in Japan are expected to throw a lot of innings. Matsuzaka did, Darvish did and Tanaka did.
In particular, Tanaka threw a lot of innings as a teen-aged pitcher. According to Sports Illustrated, the teen-aged Tanaka threw 359 innings for Rakuten. Only Bob Feller and Pete Schneider threw more, Feller from 1936-38, Schneider in 1914-15.
The fear then, is that, while Tanaka is still only 25, he has a lot of miles on him. To me, a long-term contract for the guy is an interesting gamble. I wouldn't make it.
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