The Mariners Will Bid For Masahiro Tanaka

Jeff Sullivan · December 26, 2013 at 1:36 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Of course they will. No, I’m not sourced on this. No, I don’t need to be. Masahiro Tanaka has been posted as of today, and the Mariners will be involved. A month from now, Tanaka will belong to somebody. Maybe this team.

The Mariners, certainly, haven’t been linked. Not like other teams — not like the Yankees or the Dodgers or the Diamondbacks or the Cubs or a few others. So nobody out there is identifying the Mariners as favorites. As far as much of the media is concerned, the Mariners aren’t even in the running. But they’re going to be in there, because almost everybody is going to be in there. And if you think about it, why would we have heard about the Mariners?

What would the Mariners have to gain from leaking their own interest? They’ve never been that kind of front office. And we haven’t heard about it from the other side, because there hasn’t really been an other side. Tanaka just got representation, and he just got posted. Many of the whispers we hear about the Mariners, we hear from the people with whom they’re negotiating. They haven’t started negotiating this, so the whispers haven’t floated around. There’s no reason for the Mariners to talk, and there hasn’t been anybody else to do the talking.

Not that it’s directly comparable, but the Mariners weren’t linked right away to Hisashi Iwakuma when he was a free agent. First it was the Twins, then the A’s, then the Mariners and the Orioles, with the Mariners stuff coming out of Japan before being confirmed by Jon Heyman. Then everything came together very quickly. Kind of like when the Mariners traded Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero — that was a bombshell that came out of nowhere. Said Iwakuma around the time:

“We’ve received terms from a number of clubs, but considering where I’m needed and an environment my family can live in, at present we’re closest to a contract with the Mariners,” Iwakuma said.

This is going to be the Mariners’ hope. There’s already talk that the Cubs won’t allow themselves to be outbid for Tanaka’s services. The Yankees are looking for another 200 innings and a splash, and Kevin Towers has made no secret of his desire for a front-of-the-rotation starter. The Angels will spend as much as they can, and you’d be foolish to count out the Dodgers. The Mariners will be in on Tanaka, and they presumably won’t end up with the highest bid, and what they’ll have to offer is proximity, history, and a significant Japanese community. Tanaka could share the rotation with a former teammate. The Mariners will hope that Tanaka’s approximation of free agency won’t come down only to money and years. If that happens, they’ll have to look elsewhere.

But it’s obvious they’ll be involved. They want a top-flight starting pitcher, and they don’t want to give up important youth to get it. They’ve had good experiences with untested Japanese players in the past, and Jack Zduriencik already alluded to there being budget flexibility under special circumstances. Tanaka is as special as offseason circumstances get. If there’s room to add a certain big-money player, Tanaka has to qualify, or else almost no one would qualify. This is a guy the Mariners want — this is a guy the Mariners know could boost them right toward immediate contention. Add Tanaka and Robinson Cano and you might be adding nine or ten wins.

Yeah, Tanaka’s had a heavy workload. He’s also 25. Ubaldo Jimenez is about to turn 30. Matt Garza already turned 30. Ervin Santana just turned 31. David Price is 28, and expensive, and just had an arm problem, and wouldn’t be under control for long. You’re never going to find a pitcher who isn’t extremely risky, and Tanaka’s young enough to bounce back from just about anything. He has the talent to be an ace, and he hasn’t physically wavered yet. Felix Hernandez has had a heavy workload, too.

No one’s going to go all-out for Tanaka, because there has to be a limit, because he is unproven here, and because Daisuke Matsuzaka and others have busted. He feels like more of a certainty than he is, and that’s why he’s not going to get a Verlander contract. Still, this is going nine figures, and the Mariners are probably comfortable enough with that. They couldn’t not be, not after the Cano thing. You can’t give a decade to a 31-year-old second baseman, and feel good about it, and then draw a conservative line with a 25-year-old Japanese ace. I doubt the Mariners’ final bid will be blown out of the water. It will just, probably, be short. And that’s why they’ll hope for other reasons behind Tanaka’s decision.

Here’s the thing: Tanaka makes perfect sense for the Mariners. Just perfect sense. He’s an excellent starting pitcher in the prime of his career. These players are never available just for money. He’s an improvement for 2014 and 2019, meaning he’s a short-term and long-term building block. That’s precisely what the Mariners need. That’s also precisely what literally everyone needs. Tanaka makes sense for contenders and non-contenders alike. Everyone has a chance, now, with the new posting system, and while certain teams won’t really dive in head-first — the Marlins, for example, likely won’t bother — every roster looks a hell of a lot better with Tanaka on it. Every future looks a hell of a lot better with Tanaka in it. Presuming he doesn’t bust, which he shouldn’t, but, which he might. Everyone has a reason to want him, so the Mariners will be competing within a massive, overwhelming market.

So that reduces the probability. The greater the number of teams in the mix, the lesser the likelihood that Tanaka puts on a Mariners uniform. It’s not like they can just set their minds to it and get him — he’s not an item on a shelf, he’s not a six-minute mile. There is one of this guy, and there are 20+ teams who want the same one guy, and plenty of them will go after him hard. Almost every team will lose. The Mariners have to hope that Tanaka likes perks and security. They have to hope that he likes them back. Probably enough to make up for a gap in proposed contract terms.

So, off we go, finally. Between now and the start of spring training, the Mariners will add at least one starting pitcher to the current rotation. They haven’t formally been linked to Masahiro Tanaka, but they’ll be in pursuit. All the while, they’ll remain in contact with the free agents and they’ll place some calls to other front offices. Their goal, in part, is to just not get shut out. But they’d also love to add somebody great. You know, like every team would.

Comments

52 Responses to “The Mariners Will Bid For Masahiro Tanaka”

  1. NorthofWrigleyField on December 26th, 2013 1:57 pm

    My questions are: Will the number the Mariners have to go to that other teams don’t be too high for them? Is there anyway their agent doesn’t hardball the Mariners for the same premium Robinson Cano got? How much does another team have to offer where you’re ok with them falling short? I’m also interested in whether he’s looking for a ~5 year deal which would put him back on the market again at 30 or something longer.

  2. Jeff Sullivan on December 26th, 2013 2:15 pm

    I’d be fine with something like $110m/6yr. That’s off the top of my head. From there, I’m not real rigid, but you have to get rigid at some point. $120m/6yr is probably too much. It’s also just a ten-million difference…

  3. Edgar Suzuki Jr. on December 26th, 2013 2:24 pm

    C’mon Tanaka, SafeCo boasts a recent Cy Young winner and a guy you pitched with who was third place this year….Plus there’s a Uwajamaya not far from the ballpark!

  4. vztaxes on December 26th, 2013 2:25 pm

    None of the competing teams listed play in tax-free states. Would that mean that half of his contract is not subject to state tax (for home games)? Coming from Japan I hope we could parlay that benefit as well, to entice him to come here.

  5. ChrisFB on December 26th, 2013 3:27 pm

    Yep, you covered all the bases here. As I said yesterday, the pitch is:

    - Succeed as an individual, but the team still blows? You’ll get traded to a contender. No one will think lesser of you. They may even pity you and root for you to compete on a bigger stage.
    - Be part of bringing championships to Seattle? You will be a legend. Bigger than Ichiro or Randy. Possibly even bigger than Junior or Edgar.
    - Fail in the majors as a Mariner? Oh hey, there’s a pile with no beginning and no end. No one will notice. It will just be Seattle being Seattle.

    And in all 3 of these scenarios, you will still make a small country’s GDP in salary, and likely still be a revered star in your home country.

    Now compare that to being in one of those heavy-scrutiny sorts of markets like New York, where his every move and failing will be magnified, and where they’ll turn on him in an instant if he’s ever less than perfect. Have some of the snarky New York newspaper covers from when Cano left just casually left on the table during negotiation to remind him how toxic that atmosphere might be.

    Anyway. Regardless of the number of years, I’d have to think competitive bids start at $20m/yr.

  6. podcaf on December 26th, 2013 3:50 pm

    There’s even a Kinokuniya in walking distance! Not that he’d be allowed to walk freely around town.

    So I wonder what “special circumstances” are? In my fevered imagination it includes luring back Japanese fans, beyond what Iwakuma (on a lousy team) can bring in. Also, splashy means eyeballs here too, and if their money comes largely from a massive TV deal, then signing a guy who will bump the ratings is putting money back in one’s own pocket.

  7. Adam S on December 26th, 2013 4:01 pm

    Does anyone understand how state income tax really works for professional athletes? If you get paid $20M by the Dodgers or Angels, do you pay ~12% of that to California? Or do you just pay 12% on 50% of the contract you earn playing home games.

    Do all players pay CA state income tax based on games played in the state? E.g., Mariners players would pay on 11% of their salary.

    That suggests that $20M from the Mariners is significantly more than $20M from a California team.

  8. podcaf on December 26th, 2013 4:11 pm

    Adam, I’m not aware of any exceptions for pro athletes, though they may exist. That’s determined by each state. In general, the duty to pay state income tax is determined by the legal residences of you and/or your employer, not by where you go in the course of your job. Like, if I have a business trip to New York, I don’t pay income tax there because my visit results in economic activity. My income still comes from my employer, who is here. [And you can imagine what players would say if they had to file 30 different state tax returns...]

  9. Eastside Crank on December 26th, 2013 4:23 pm

    From the AP release:
    “Tanaka will be represented by Excel Sports Management during the process. Other Excel Sports clients include Dodgers two-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.”
    It looks like the Yankees and the Dodgers are in the driver’s seat.

  10. stevemotivateir on December 26th, 2013 4:37 pm

    Maybe I’m alone on this, but I have a hard time seeing his contract higher than 120. The Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, and Angels should be able to sign other legitimate starters for half (or less) of that. Same could be said for the M’s, but the M’s have a significantly lower payroll (as of now) than those teams (Cubs being the exception).

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure those teams will really make a push for him. I just see their limit possibly being a little lower than the M’s.

    I think the M’s do have a real shot at him. I wont hold my breath, though;)

  11. dantheman on December 26th, 2013 4:39 pm

    “this is a guy the Mariners know could boost them right toward immediate contention.”

    This is so wrong in so many ways it’s hard to know where to start.

  12. Roscoe on December 26th, 2013 4:47 pm

    Adam/podcaf

    check out:

    http://www.accountingweb.com/article/update-tax-man-mlb-take-me-out-ball-game/221491

    It describes the “jock tax” It’s a nightmare for pro athletes – state and even city taxes have to be paid unless there is a reciprocity agreement with their home state.

  13. ripperlv on December 26th, 2013 4:56 pm

    Does a significant Japanese community have a bearing? I would say yes because he’s married to a Japanese idol Mai Satoda. Which might also be a positive for the Dodgers and Angels. Go M’s.

  14. Jeff Sullivan on December 26th, 2013 5:03 pm

    It could only possibly be wrong in one way.

  15. podcaf on December 26th, 2013 5:09 pm

    Thanks Roscoe — what a mess!

  16. podcaf on December 26th, 2013 5:12 pm

    dantheman, why? It’s a pretty heavily qualified statement.

  17. Jeff Sullivan on December 26th, 2013 5:13 pm

    dantheman has disagreements.

  18. dantheman on December 26th, 2013 5:40 pm

    “dantheman has disagreements”

    Okay, let’s start with the fact that the Mariners were the 6th worst team in all of baseball last year, lost 91 games, and that was not a one year aberration. Look at their run differential which was nothing short of abysmal. They were even worse than the White Sox who lost 99 games and just 3 runs better than a Miami team that lost 100 games. With respect to the Mariners horrible pitching (even with Felix and Iwakuma having excellent years for a bad, bad baseball team), look at the number of runs allowed which was not quite the worst in the AL but well within the levels of the teams that lost games in the mid-90s. How can any serious person believe that the Mariners, even with Cano, are one starting pitcher away from “immediate contention”? This is precisely the kind of pie-in-the-sky delirium that allows the Mariners front office to deflect attention year in and year out from its incompetence.

  19. Jim on December 26th, 2013 6:01 pm

    Dan: You do realize that contention doesn’t mean immediate favorites to win the World Series, right? Tanaka, Cano, Felix, Kuma, healthy Corey Hart, and a little bit of luck put the Mariners in the conversation about teams with a shot at the playoffs. That’s contending.

  20. Jordan on December 26th, 2013 6:25 pm

    Dan,
    Not to mention addition by subtraction. Eliminating Morse and Ibanez from the outfield improves the run differential with even just an average defender in those spots.

    Now I am not delusional, but with 3 TOR starters it wouldn’t take much more to begin winning a majority of those games. Obviously, even after a Tanaka addition there are holes to fill, but at least he would provide a bit more reason for optimism going forward.

  21. dantheman on December 26th, 2013 6:49 pm

    “Dan: You do realize that contention doesn’t mean immediate favorites to win the World Series, right? Tanaka, Cano, Felix, Kuma, healthy Corey Hart, and a little bit of luck put the Mariners in the conversation about teams with a shot at the playoffs. That’s contending.”

    Well, the Mariners had Felix and Kuma last year so there’s no improvement there and one could certainly argue that Iwakuma is unlikely to be better than last year. By the way, the Yankees had Cano last year (and a whole lot more than the Mariners) and how did they do in the playoffs? Oh wait…. So the difference between “immediate contention” for the Mariners and last year is Cano, Corey Hart and Tanaka (the latter two having not played MLB last year)? The whole problem with the article above is that it substitutes wishful thinking for analysis which pretty much explains the Mariners approach to baseball.

  22. Jeff Sullivan on December 26th, 2013 7:06 pm

    1) It’s not by any means an analytical article.

    2) You are awful at this.

    Stop holding a grudge or stop reading.

  23. Longgeorge1 on December 26th, 2013 7:08 pm

    If we get Tanaka fine, but there are three other arms out there that are worth a shot also. Then its say your prayers for Paxton, Walker and Erasmo and a bunch of help me please in the pen. If games were just six innings and first base was the only defensive position and you could use as many DH’s as you wanted we could be contenders

  24. Celadus on December 26th, 2013 7:16 pm

    When you call yourself dantheman you invite comparisons with Stan the Man. You do so at your peril, just as you would if you called yourself danthegreyeagle, bambino-dan, or say-hey-dan.

    When I think of dantheman I don’t think of snakes uncoiling, triples sizzled to any part of the ballpark, buying a restaurant so Curt Flood can eat with the rest of his teammates, or big ugly tribute statues in St. Louis.

    I have actually seen Stan Musial play and you, sir, are no Stan the Man.

    Yours truly,

    Gary-the-ad-hominem-guy.

  25. dantheman on December 26th, 2013 7:32 pm

    “You are awful at this. Stop holding a grudge or stop reading.”

    I have no grudge, just a distaste for really bad analysis. But I will agree with you, your article was in no way analytical. It did make “perfect sense”. And if by “this”, you mean wishful thinking, always believing that next year the Mariners are going to win the division, you are correct.

  26. Jeff Sullivan on December 26th, 2013 8:18 pm

    You nailed it!

  27. dantheman on December 26th, 2013 8:21 pm

    Thanks – See you at the Mariners Ticker Tape Parade in October!

  28. kinickers77 on December 26th, 2013 8:40 pm

    Dantheman – you are right that there was some wishful thinking in this article. A wish to land Tanaka. A wish to be contenders. But there is a plain and simple piece of analysis in it too: the Ms would be a better team with Tanaka than without him. He takes us one step closer to what we wish for…winning. Jeff just used that small possibility of landing him as an opportunity to dream a little. You should try it sometime. It’s more fun than being cynical.

  29. evolvingcaveman on December 26th, 2013 8:54 pm

    Thanks for the article it states exactly how I feel without the spelling errors.

    When you add the best hitter and best pitcher in the same off-season it could most certainly boost you into ” contention” for the playoffs. The players still have to produce but it’s a good move short term and long term and would make our rotation formidable.
    Does Price make more or less sense if we landed Tanaka first ?

  30. henryv on December 26th, 2013 9:02 pm

    I think Price-for-Walker may be option B if Tanaka doesn’t work out. Not that I’d do the trade, but I’m wondering how much the organization is pushing to win in the next year, and if they’re on tilt, and are willing to bet big just to play.

    Also, why does USSM have a history of commenters being dicks to writers? Seems like every time Dave posts something mildly interesting they come out of the woodwork. Now people are giving Jeff the same treatment?

    This team looks like it has a reasonable chance to win 90 games next year, with one more major move, and perhaps one minor one. And we can’t find much more to do than take pot-shots at each other. This is why we can’t have nice things.

  31. Westside guy on December 26th, 2013 10:17 pm

    Henry, it’s the story of the internet as a whole – not just here on USSM. The great thing about the internet is that every one can participate… but that’s also the tragedy of the internet.

    I’m glad the Mariners are looking at good pitchers this time, especially if they plan on playing two DHs as “outfielders” again this year (we already know there’s going to be one, and if the Nelson Cruz rumors are true…). It’ll still suck… just slightly less than 2013.

    I don’t believe they’re anywhere near sniffing distance of 90 wins though, even with adding more good pitching. As currently configured, I don’t think they’re even a .500 club yet – it’ll take another significant move just to get them even to that point, in my opinion.

  32. MrZDevotee on December 26th, 2013 10:27 pm

    dantheman has really strong opinions, which he somehow confuses as interchangeable with knowledge/fact. So strong, and self confirmed, that he flirts with being insulting whenever he disagrees with someone (someone is a nice way of saying “Jeff”)…

    If your thoughts don’t jibe with his thoughts (which, again, he mistakes for being “damn near facts”) you better have a WHOLE lot of analysis to contradict his ideas (though he won’t provide any analysis for HIS thoughts).

    It’s petty. He trips over his own genius when talking about run differential and failing to include the fact that our outfield defense was potentially the worst its ever been. Pitchers, especially fly ball pitchers, are only as good as their outfield defense. A faulty bullpen, a couple of reclaim starter projects, the fences coming in, and crummier outfielders led to most of that run differential problem. Somebody mentioned “addition by subtraction” but Dan doesn’t “feel” the deep analysis necessary to get his attention with that line– so he dismisses it.

    The worst critics are always the ones who offer nothing, but sit in the shadows, tail twitching, waiting to pounce. No risk, all superiority. Only, they don’t realize how they position themselves as the least useful type of contributor with their behavior. Unnecessary at best. Abysmally boring, at worst.

    There isn’t a single player out there for the dollars who offers a greater amount of improvement in WAR, run differential, whatever you want to use, than Tanaka. Yet dan wants to deal in hypotheticals so he can play math major. He’s the longhaired guy in the bar in Good Will Hunting quoting the same boring books, while feeling smug.

    Too bad dan wasn’t our GM, he’d have this all fixed in a jiffy! (snort)

  33. MrZDevotee on December 26th, 2013 10:39 pm

    Also, anyone who would argue that Tanaka doesn’t offer to “boost (the M’s) right toward immediate contention” needs to do a LOT of explaining of his own why NOT?

    “Toward” being the operative word.

    He would be a “boost” in talent. (Check)
    He would be the “right” type of boost. (Check)
    He would move us “toward” immediate contention, not away from it. (check)
    We’re interested in “contention”, the sooner the better, and adding better players makes us more likely to be contenders. (check)

    Talk about shoddy analysis. How did dan find the negative/false/rose colored glasses in this statement again? I might have missed it, if he explained what’s wrong… It would definitely be BEAUTIFUL to read that.

  34. Adam S on December 27th, 2013 12:20 am

    FanGraphs depth charts show the Mariners as a 36.6 WAR team right now, which is about 84 wins — http://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=Team. If Tanaka is a 4 WAR pitcher, that gets them to 87 wins* which is the edge of contention. 87 won’t get you in the playoffs, but if a few guys overachieve and the rest balance out, you could have a 90-93 win team.

    * I’m deducting 1 WAR that the 5th starter would have earned but now winds up in Tacoma.

  35. Westside guy on December 27th, 2013 1:26 am

    I’m a bit leery regarding those FanGraphs projections (which place the M’s at 82-80 actually). Looking at the detail, they don’t appear to be looking at defense by position – just overall. Check out Ackley’s defensive projection, for example – then compare that to his brutal 2012 defensive stats just while playing center field.

    On the plus side, those projections show we have a gaping hole value-wise at first base. That’s something that could easily be fixed… if Jack Z could admit that Smoak isn’t a starting first baseman (although that would require he admit a mistake, which he doesn’t seem able to do).

  36. maqman on December 27th, 2013 2:52 am

    I’m willing to see the team do what it takes to get Tanaka, which I’m thinking is around 8/$160M. Cano and Ma-Kun alone are not enough to make the M’s contenders. That will be down to how our homegrown players perform. The team can afford three large contracts going forward because they have built up a sustainable farm system and they have a lot of guys getting the major league minimum. One thing for sure, they will be a hell of a lot more interesting to watch next season. Contention? It will come, if not 2014 then after that.

  37. PitchersRule on December 27th, 2013 4:02 am

    I only get to see about 155 games a year, I freely admit, but I have totally spaced on seeing Smoak as such a piss poor fielder as he is always held up to be here. As have said before, I am 60 (look and feel younger, kids) and pre-date sabermetrics although I owned and played ABBA while in high school. I greatly admire the use of advanced metrics in evaluating results and, hopefully, predicting them. But watching as I have the many great digs made by Smoakie and snags on the foul line, I just can’t get it up for bashing the hell out of his defense every bloody time. No on seemed to appreciate that whats his name before him who set a record for fielding at 1st but hit like a pansy. Anyway, please show me “da facts” as I am challenged in understaning much of sabermetrics when it comes to evaluating fielding. Thanks and great little discussion. Jeff– you the Man!

  38. GhostofMarinersPast on December 27th, 2013 6:05 am

    If….we were to land Mr. T, wouldn’t trading walker for a young impact bat make sense? Someone with team control? Oscar Taveras perhaps? Cargo maybe? He’d be a little pricier….

  39. ChrisFB on December 27th, 2013 6:38 am

    Adam, Westside – I’m more than just leery of those FG charts. Those are Steamer projections, yes? Zunino having a 1.9 WAR season (i.e. being league average in his first full season, and while being the primary catcher also)? Miller, 3.3 (i.e. better than Seager)? Hart, healthy enough for 280 PA as a LF? Dustin Ackley, the primary CF? Guti, healthy enough for 350 PA?

    I realize all educated guesses need to start somewhere, but… yeah no. Throw in Paxton and Walker having their first full seasons in the majors and Erasmo’s health question marks, and this ‘feels’ more like it’s still a 75-win team.

    The M’s need to import more talent – like Tanaka, and a true everyday catcher and a true center fielder – before even contemplating .500.

    PitchersRule – There’s 3 years of ML data on Smoak by now, which if I remember right should be enough sample size to start sort of believing in defensive metrics for him. And his defensive metrics are all in the negatives. But his traditional numbers of .995 fielding % and 21 errors in those 3 years, seem to map more to your eye test of being a perfectly serviceable guy at first with the glove. I honestly don’t think defense matters much at first base as long as you can move laterally at all, i.e. if you’re a league average defender at first base then who cares. I’m much more concerned about Smoak continuing the charade of being a switch hitter than I ever will be about his defense.

  40. ripperlv on December 27th, 2013 8:54 am

    PitchersRule – I agree with you, UZR which is the sabremetric that is often referenced that doesn’t do 1st basemen any justice. Balls scooped out of the dirt doesn’t count for anything unless the 1B makes an error. Some are much better at it than others, but get no credit. UZR is more concerned with lateral movement than the good footwork around the bag that a Good 1B will have. Or the facts that a lefty 1B can make infield throws a righty won’t. Once again, factors like that are not taken into consideration. If you had a lefty playing SS, you know that would be included in the metric. Plus people have the idea that anyone can play 1B, which is true. How many play it well – not all that many. That’s why I pretty much ignore UZR for 1B.
    If you look at UZR for 2013 Napoli was best at 9.7 and Smoak was 2nd worse at -5.0. Now one year is not enough sample, you’re looking for 3-6 years. But people will throw those 1 year stats around all the time. I would play Smoak over Napoli (defensively) at 1B every day of the week. I mean Nick Swisher who plays 1B like my cousin Susan is rated higher than Adam LaRoche in 2013, and he is a 2012 UZR leader and gold glover (which is another whole argument). But really, I’ve seen Smoak play and he’s a decent 1B. And I have no doubt I’m a better judge of 1B than UZR. So don’t pay much attention to UZR for 1B.

  41. marcus_andrews on December 27th, 2013 8:57 am

    PitchersRule – I don’t think anyone here thinks Smoak is an awful fielder, he is just a “meh” first baseman. That, on its own, isn’t a big deal. Plenty of “meh” first basemen are valuable, you just have to be able to hit like Prince Fielder in Milwaukee or, at the least, Derek Lee levels to be a very useful player. Unfortunately, Justin Smoak has combined the defense of an average first baseman with the offense of an average shortstop, and that’s not a great combo.

    ChrisFB- I agree that these projections need to be taken with a grain of salt, but I think you point out all of the optimistic projections and none of the pessimistic ones. First off, Miller’s projection doesn’t seem that far off to me. He has hit everywhere he’s played, he hit in the majors last year, and he’s a shortstop. He looks like a 3 win player to me. Ackley’s projection seems too high, no argument there. Hart and Guti’s health, this is a median projection. It’s entirely possible we get half that many at bats from them, but it’s possible we get 400-500 from each (note, most of Hart’s would have to come from 1b and DH not LF) and then our team is better than the projection says.

    Additionally, on the pitching side: Walker, Paxton and Ramirez are projected a combined 1.7 WAR. Now I know that it’s tough to project pitching and all that, but I wouldn’t be stunned if at least one of that triumvirate put up that much value on their own. And there’s a non-zero chance that one of those guys actually “breaks out” to some level and puts up a 3 WAR season.

    Obviously, projections aren’t gospel and it’s impossible to know how good everyone will perform this year, but I don’t think it requires THAT much squinting to see a .500 team here and adding some value here or there could certainly put us in the conversation for the second wild card slot.

  42. Longgeorge1 on December 27th, 2013 9:32 am

    If projecting war for a pitcher is hard, how about figuring it? Last year Fangraphs had Iwakuma at 4.2 and Baseball-reference had him at 7.0. That’s a 67% difference. Figures lie and liars figure. It is hard to see the logic of why WAR is figured so differently and which way is more “correct”

  43. ChrisFB on December 27th, 2013 9:40 am

    Marcus – All good points, but “some value here or there” is not putting them in the conversation for the 2nd wild card. Not unless that conversation goes:

    You: Are they going to be the 2nd wild card?
    Me: Nope.

    The wild card threshold, the last 4 seasons, was 92 wins, 93, 91, 95. Even with Tanaka coming to Seattle and performing as expected, and all the rookies clicking, and the rehab projects being healthy, and Erasmo/Walker/Paxton doing well, and everyone else doing well, and and and… I don’t see this being a 92, 93-win team unless they have all that luck, AND an everyday above-average CF, and an everyday league-average catcher.

    This team needs multiple upgrades to multiple premium talents (doesn’t have to be Cano, obviously, but certainly not more Hart/LoMo/Guti blue light specials) to be a comfortably 87-ish win team. 92 wins is a couple seasons away at least.

  44. KaminaAyato on December 27th, 2013 9:50 am

    Here’s the thing with Tanaka Masahiro. He will be the 2nd elite pitcher next to Darvish to have come from NPB before his supposed prime.

    Now Darvish is half Iranian, and I suppose physiologically he’s different than someone who is full Japanese, but we’ve seen that Darvish has (so far) been a success and it’s assumed that Ma-kun will be the same. Plus, coming over earlier in his career would supposedly prevent adding on extra years due to the pitching regiment in Japan (though you then wonder how someone like Kuroda has been able to say so sharp so late into his career).

    I was fortunate enough to see him in his senior year of HS as he tried to lead Komadai Tomakomai to a record setting 3rd straight Natsu Koshien tournament – only to lose to Waseda Jitsugyou and the Handkerchief Prince Saitou Yuuki.

    Tanaka wasn’t even the prized possession everyone wanted in the 2006 NPB draft. It was actually Yu-chan. But he decided to go to university and Ma-kun got all the attention.

    I actually think the loss helped him in his pro career because having failed to make history it led him to work harder in the pros. In fact, at this point in history he’s proved to have been a better pitcher than Yu-chan by leaps and bounds.

    When projecting Japanese players in the majors it’s much more difficult – but it does seem that pitchers are easier to project because we get a chance to see their repertoire more often.

    What we’ve seen is that the elite talent generally doesn’t have a problem translating to the majors.

    Working backwards, Darvish we all know about too well (though for some unknown reason his kryptonite is the Mariners).

    Uehara perhaps wasn’t considered elite, but that was only because he was injured late in his NPB career and was converted into a reliever (Supposedly he hated the prospect, but I think warmed up to it here considering the fact that elite late-innings guys get paid bank).

    Kuroda has been the ultimate fly under the radar guy. As a pitcher who played half his games at the bandbox that was Old Hiroshima Municipal Stadium, he still managed to carry one of the better ERAs in NPB. I still wished that we had gotten him when he came over and now even at age 38 is still running strong (you could argue that playing in New Yankee Stadium is like playing back at home).

    Even non-elite talent has had success. Iwakuma, Tazawa (who actually came from the industrial leagues and passed up the NPB draft) and to some extent Saitou Takashi.

    Yes, there have been some failures (Matsuzaka, Igawa to name a few), but I think for the most part an elite pitcher is an elite pitcher. Would he help the M’s? Certainly. Would I like to see him here? Sure, as long as there is no problem with Iwakuma playing second fiddle to Ma-kun again (and perhaps relinquishing the ace #18 to Ma-kun). Is it the best thing for the team long-term? I have no freaking clue but I’d like to think so.

  45. podcaf on December 27th, 2013 10:26 am

    First off, PitchersRule, there is no shame in listening to ABBA. Occasionally.

    I’m enjoying reading the 2014 projections with Tanaka, but the real value here is longer term. To get him would necessitate a pretty lengthy deal, which means Felix and Cano wouldn’t be the only elite players around in 2-3 years if/when all this talent (Walker, Zunino, etc) matures. This is the biggest attraction, versus the relatively cheaper guys on the FA market, all of whom are 30+.

  46. bluemoonking on December 27th, 2013 12:20 pm

    I believe that the Mariners have to give this guy 30 for 10 if need be. I love Kuma and Felix but this guy could draw as much interest as Ichiro did. The TV revenue and merch from Japan could pay for his contract. I see this being a better gamble than Cano’s contract.

    Contracts are a gamble anyway’s. You can’t (for the most part) predict injuries and he is ONLY 25 years old.

    Then the next GM could come in and build a roster that could compete.

  47. Eastside Suds on December 27th, 2013 12:35 pm

    Over on LL, Matt quotes Bavasi in recounting the horrible trades he made (Cabrera, Choo are just a few). At least he “admits” he was “stupid”. If my feelings about Bill Bavasi where computed into WAR, he just moved from -200.0 to -199.90. Its good that he realizes his errors, but I harken back to that great line in Gladiator….”What you do in life, echoes for an eternity”. Boy, does that fit us.

    Choo RF (4+ Avg. WAR over last 6 seasons)
    A. Cabrera SS (3 Avg. WAR over last 6 seasons)
    A. Jones CF (3+ Avg. WAR over last 6 seasons)

    With these three, it would give us solid defense and offense not to mention a few All-Stars and a fuller stadium. Then add the jewels we already have…..

    R. Cano 2B (7+ Avg. WAR over last 5 seasons)
    K. Seager 3B (3.5 Avg. WAR over last 2 seasons)
    King Felix SP (5.5 Avg. WAR over last 5 seasons
    Kuma SP (4.5 Avg. WAR over last 2 seasons)

    (80 wins with these guys alone albeit without the projections of the support crew). What could have been!!!

  48. spuuky on December 27th, 2013 1:00 pm

    I have to say, I’d be really excited if they signed Tanaka, even at the price it will likely take to get him. He might fail, but I’d certainly love to see him, and I don’t think he will.

  49. bookbook on December 27th, 2013 8:45 pm

    I believe the plan is to make the playoffs in 2015. To get from 71 wins to 91 in one offseason of profligate spending is, to put it mildly, ambitious.
    But there is a path. To get to 90 wins from 70 in the 2014 offseason would be just as difficult, if not moreso (no Cano-level talents, no Tanaka types that we know about, Yankee dollars unleashed.)

    Adding Cano and Tanaka this year would be excellent ingredients for 2015 contention.

  50. jamesllegade on December 28th, 2013 10:11 am

    Seems the MLB is very concerned about a team ‘back channelling’ money to the Golden Eagles by bidding extra on their later players who would not normally hit the $20 million cap. A report has also come out about Tanaka stating that he wanted to donate some of his MLB contract back to the team for stadium improvements… a move that would violate the new posting rules.

    I imagine as the first team to hit the new maximum posting cap the Golden Eagles aren’t too pleased… and in the foreign world of Japanese employee/employer relations Tanaka feels indebted to the Golden Eagles and would look favorably on a MLB team that can help him pay the honor debt to them.

    Now I ask you… which MLB team is best situated to both understand the weird rules of japanese business culture and also possess a myriad of hidden ways to make the Golden Eagles happy? Never have I been so happy to have Nintendo in our corner.

    I think we are the favorites for this thing no matter what you hear about the Dodgers or the Cubs ability to make bigger offers. That is American style thinking… We need to look at this through a Japanese lens.

  51. OregonMariner on December 30th, 2013 4:50 pm

    jamesllegade,

    You are totally off the mark on this subject.

    (1) Rukuten’s president Tachibana needed a week before posting Tanaka because he wanted to understand the new posting system in and out and he did. He would not do anything that is prohibited in the new posting system.

    (2) The ballpark you talked about is prefectural, i.e., it is owned by Miyagi Prefecture, not the Golden Eagles. Tanaka also stated his willingness to help people who haven’t recovered from the 2011 tsunami.

    (3) MLB sent the Golden Eagles a letter of warning thinking that Tanaka will pay part of his contracts to his old club without checking what was really happening. It’s an American way because so many people try to find a way to beat any system in the U.S., but not in Japan, especially in north. Remember how they behaved after the tsunami? No looting and the valuables found in the area afterwards were all turned in to the authorities.

  52. jamesllegade on December 31st, 2013 11:04 am

    Wow OregonMariner… Do I detect a hint of nationalist or perhaps regional pride? (from the “north” yourself?)

    “Japan Inc.” has shown us there is no end to the collusion between government and business in that country… I am just hoping a few gold bars hidden in someone’s desk safe happen to fall our way. For you to think this sort of thing only happens in America is naive.

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