So They Didn’t Sign Masahiro Tanaka

Jeff Sullivan · January 22, 2014 at 3:03 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Tanaka’s going to New York, and it’s official, so no take-backsies. It always kind of looked like the Mariners would make a whole lot of sense, even before people started connecting them to Tanaka, and then people started connecting them to Tanaka. But then that stopped, and about a week passed, and then we got here. We can’t be certain to what extent the Mariners were actually involved, and I don’t know if they’ll ever choose to open up about it like, say, the Astros have in acknowledging they met and made a nine-figure offer. Maybe the M’s were in really deep. But there was no actual indication of that, and perhaps the M’s anticipated how high this would go and started to look elsewhere. Perhaps the M’s were uncomfortable with seven years and $175 million.

Because that’s what this is going to cost the Yankees: seven years and $175 million. Unless Tanaka is healthy and good, in which case it’ll cost them four years and $108 million, and then he’ll opt out and sign for more. Tanaka was at his absolute most appealing several months ago, I think. At that point he was an idea, a talented mystery, and he’d be in a position where he’d basically have to sign with the team with the highest posting bid. And we loved the way posting bids came from some kind of separate budget. Then changes to the posting system more or less exposed Tanaka to free-agency prices. Suddenly everyone got to be involved. Today’s numbers function as a splash of cold water on a daydreamer’s face.

No more is it about Tanaka being a mystery, and therefore potentially being a bargain. The posting fee plus the salary add up to Felix Hernandez money. Tanaka has an opt-out. Felix has a cheap option if he hurts his elbow. It isn’t fair to just directly compare the numbers like that, but it still conveys a powerful and mostly accurate idea — Tanaka’s being paid to be somewhat similar to Felix Hernandez, and Felix is getting paid basically what he’s worth. While the Yankees are happy to print their own money, had the Mariners guaranteed a contract like this, there would’ve been more ways for it to go bad than good. Though I’m fairly certain Tanaka will be pretty good, this goes well past the point of being an obvious deal. At these terms, the Mariners were at least not wrong to hold back.

It’s just that, you know, there’s that dilemma. Tanaka won’t be a bargain, but he was probably the best free agent left. Maybe the best available player left. And the Mariners still need to get better, if they aim to contend in the short term, which is kind of the whole point of signing Robinson Cano for so much. I know they say it’s a ten-year marriage, and I know they say they expect Cano to age gracefully, but he won’t be better in 2017 than he will be in 2014. The plan, it seems, is to win. The progress is incomplete.

By the FanGraphs projected standings, the Mariners are the 11th-best team in the American League. By the FanGraphs projected WAR, the Mariners are still the 11th-best team in the American League. Of course, there’s a whole mess of teams right ahead of them, and the M’s are close enough to get carried away, but being trapped behind that many teams leaves them with very low odds. The M’s could still badly use another four or five wins, which is to say, the M’s could still badly use immediate roster upgrades. A few of them, since you probably won’t gain that with one player.

And there’s relatively little left. I mean, there’s a lot left, a lot more than usual by this point in January, but there’s nothing easy about the task the Mariners face, especially if it’s true that they’re pushing up against their budget ceiling. David Price would be a splash, but we’ve been over that. The remaining upper-tier starters are all interesting, but they’ll be expensive and they’re all no less mysterious than Tanaka is, given Garza’s health, Santana’s volatility, and Jimenez’s unpredictability. It’s been interesting to think about the link between the Mariners and Scott Baker, but Baker might not return to being the consistent pitcher he was. I keep advertising Chris Capuano everywhere, but that’d be a small improvement. They need more improvements.

For me, the wild card in a way is Nick Franklin. He’s got nowhere to play, and he’s young and good and appealing. Ordinarily fans are loath to trade their own quality prospects, but I think we’ve all come to terms with Franklin’s expendability. He’s potentially of the most use to the Mariners by getting traded, provided the trade is a good one, for help. He’s good enough to be the centerpiece in a move for a relative splash, a move that would forgivably focus more on the present. But I can’t speak to the league-wide demand. The one move I know in which Franklin was involved, I didn’t like. I should hope that the Mariners could turn him into something pretty good.

It’s a weird day for Mariners fans. It’s a good day, just in that, all right, the offseason can resume now. Tanaka’s finally off the board, and he got a massive deal, so it’s not like the Mariners totally whiffed. But the Mariners still do need to get better, and no route will be quicker than the Tanaka one would’ve. So if the front office wants to achieve the goal it set for itself some months back, it needs to go all Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment. I don’t know if she actually navigated security lasers in the movie but that’s what the promotional poster made it look like. You could also think of the Mariners as having to play Operation, and Jack Zduriencik’s got some chubby fingers.

In time, Tanaka will be just another pitcher. Maybe a very good one, but in time he’ll feel real. We’ll be able to say, okay, he’s as good as this other guy, like we can do with Yu Darvish. In time he’ll feel a lot less, I don’t know, exotic. The process started today when we heard about the one hundred seventy-five million dollars. I’m okay with the Mariners sitting this one out. I’m just not quite sure what they’re supposed to do now. The Seahawks are in the Super Bowl, though. Wow!


31 Responses to “So They Didn’t Sign Masahiro Tanaka”

  1. Snuffy on January 22nd, 2014 4:14 pm

    Will the trade return for Nick Franklin really be much of a difference maker? I’d like them to give Franklin some time in RF. He has a plus arm & he ‘could’ find the key to his contact issues with more AAA time (plus learning RF). Smoak is the key to what we do next and we shouldn’t rush to move Franklin when Smoak has shown he is not a MLB starter except for relatively short bursts. Where do the new collection of M’s DH guys play if Smoak is considered a starter. LoMo is not an OF’er. Cory Hart has bad knees & OF looks unlikely. Gutti needs to play if healthy but that seems wishful thinking at best. MSaunders is a very good all around athlete but where does he fit in if they really believe Ackley can play CF. Ack looked awful in CF last year. Almonte is possibly a decent 4th/5th outfielder but I doubt he is more than that.
    Of course we could always sign another DH in Nelson Cruz.

  2. PackBob on January 22nd, 2014 5:24 pm

    With Tanaka getting that contract, I have to wonder what the bidding would be like for a free agent Felix, Verlander, Kershaw rather than the home team extensions they got. Lots of money floating around baseball looking for a home.

  3. Westside guy on January 22nd, 2014 6:01 pm

    I really hope they’ve got an intelligent plan that is still to be implemented; but so far nothing much has happened to raise my opinion of Jack Z significantly. Given money to spend, I doubt any GM alive wouldn’t have pursued Cano, and I still think Jack’s to some degree doing the same thing he did last off season.

    Time (and a Nelson Cruz overpay) will tell.

  4. sexymarinersfan on January 22nd, 2014 6:13 pm

    Well, looks like I called it. I said it’d take about $180 million to get him signed. I was only off by a little. However I thought he was going to wind up getting $180 in his pocket. Maybe a bit more of than I thought. For that price though I would’ve still taken him just to see the Yankees faces again!!!!

  5. lalo on January 22nd, 2014 6:40 pm

    Would you like Ervin Santana for the #3 spot in the rotation? Reports out of Dominican Republic are saying Seattle and Colorado are the only two suitors at this point. Colorado is not a good team, plus Santana has never pitched in the National League, Coors is a terrible park for pitchers too… I think there is a good chance Ervin signs with the Mariners. I´d be fine with a 3 years / 33 million contract.

  6. Longgeorge1 on January 22nd, 2014 7:37 pm

    I would have no problem with Franklin in the OF, Ackley at 1B and Smoak voted off the island.

  7. californiamariner on January 22nd, 2014 7:46 pm

    Endy Chavez is coming back though.. Championship!!

  8. ck on January 22nd, 2014 9:02 pm

    Longgeorge 1 is, spot on (correct!) Ackley at First, Franklin (if he hits well this spring) in the outfield. Lincoln / Armstrong / Jack Z. were never in on Tanaka. They prefer the walmart remnant pile of post-surgical pitchers with spring training invites, or (Iwakuma) incentive laden contracts.

  9. JMB on January 22nd, 2014 9:07 pm


  10. californiamariner on January 22nd, 2014 9:38 pm

    Ackley at 1B? He hasn’t even come remotely close to hitting well enough to be considered a first baseman. He hardly hits well enough to have value at 2B or CF, how is he going to be of any use at 1B?

  11. greentunic on January 22nd, 2014 9:45 pm

    Yeah, moving serviceable defensive players at premium positions to the corners is terribly inefficient. Even a slight loss in value via trade is better than moving Ackley to first or Franklin to left field, etc.

  12. LongDistance on January 22nd, 2014 10:16 pm

    Don’t cry for me, New York. I’m feeling pretty good about 2015.

    Other thoughts as we wind down the deck chair late innings of this off season… I see Nintendos earnings dropped by nearly 20 percent. Maybe we can finally hope our vampire owners will pull their teeth out of this club’s neck. Cano was their last roll of the dice, trying to instantly rebuild to something resembling the glory years when this team had the 5th best revenue stream in MLB. And we could pretend we didn’t mind the executive suite crocodile tears.

    Hawks! Too bad Paul Allen only likes cheerleader sports. Meaning, of course, the cheerleaders…

  13. MrZDevotee on January 23rd, 2014 1:01 am

    Is it weird that I was more disappointed to hear that Grady Sizemore signed for $750,000 with Boston, with incentives for up to $6 million?

    Tiny risk, with excellent reward, for both the team AND player. It would have been nice to throw some sort of tandem of Guty and Sizemore in the outfield and ride the healthy (rather than ‘hot’) bat, between the two. Maximizing them could have been a 3 WAR player, even with neither healthy the whole year.

    He wasn’t even on my radar till I saw the contract he signed.

    I’m really at the point where I can’t get too excited about a $150+ million starting pitcher, if we can’t score runs to get him wins (poor Felix). I know run prevention is every bit as important as run scoring, but last year’s outfield and bullpen totally handicaps any added benefits found in starting pitching (especially when just our in-house options should improve the bottom 3 of last years starting rotation on opening day).

    As we’ve seen to often, holding the other team to 2-3 runs doesn’t matter when we score 2-3 runs more than any other team ourselves.

    It makes more sense, economically, to try to add runs at the plate, and in the bullpen, than to try to reduce the ERA’s of 3 starting pitchers who might take the place of some mix of Ramirez/Walker/Maurer/Paxton.

    Winning more 5-4 games is a more doable goal than winning more 3-2 games.

    The obvious spots for upgrades are STILL outfielders with defense, speed and/or better contact skills, and in the bullpen.
    We need more. We definitely got better with a big splash, and I love the Cano signing, but I don’t remember anyone going into the offseason with problem number 1 being: “man, what are we gonna do about 2nd base?”

    Basically, I’d rather bring 25 Sizemores to camp for the same money as 1 Tanaka (who only plays every 5th day) and see if we could get 3 outfielders out of the 25 of them.

  14. maqman on January 23rd, 2014 1:38 am

    GMZ now has to make the finishing moves to get the team over .500 and closer to contention. If he fails its time to Hit the Road Jack and don’t come back no more, no more.

  15. Westside guy on January 23rd, 2014 8:22 am

    CM is spot on – all this talk about outfield issues is silly. We’ve brought back Endy Chavez! Between him and WFB, they’ve probably added 10-15 gritty wins!!!

    Start printing those playoff tickets now!

  16. Longgeorge1 on January 23rd, 2014 8:58 am

    Calmariner – Ackely would be replacing Smoak at first, not Lou Gehrig. If we have a first baseman that can hit tell me about him – Oh yea that’s right JZ just got us two more stiffs – that’s a real winner. Last time I looked Cano is the only guy on this team that can hit and catch. Ok Cano at first and – just kidding. (Seagar would be about average on any other team)

  17. stevemotivateir on January 23rd, 2014 8:59 am

    I think it’s an incredible stretch to think Franklin will be in the outfield anytime soon.

    But I think it’s also a stretch for Endy to make the team out of spring. Not impossible, but probably less likely.

    Seriously, did anyone really think the M’s would fail to acquire just one legitimate outfield option this offseason (assuming he’s done)?!

    I don’t have much confidence in Jack, but I’ll admit I’m surprised.

  18. TumwaterMike on January 23rd, 2014 9:56 am

    Maybe the signing of Chavez is the first step on moving Smoak. If neither Hart or Morrison can play LF that leaves them between 1B/DH. Though I looked up Smoak’s stats for the last three years. He has shown improvement, albeit small improvement, but improvement nonetheless. I have to think that there is a trade in there for Smoak, Franklin, Beavan, Maurer, etc. Aside from Franklin, pieces that have little value by themselves but collectively might garner a nice role player.

  19. TumwaterMike on January 23rd, 2014 10:21 am

    I’ve also been thinking that free agency should be like storage wars. Every free agent would submit a list of teams they would like to play for, say 5-10. The teams would then start bidding for their services right on TV. If you really don’t want the player you could still bid up other teams, so that they don’t have the money available later for a player you might want. Just a thought. I think it would be fun. The free agency would be over in just a couple of days and teams would then know what they have going forward. This could be done around the time of the winter meetings. Just a thought.

  20. californiamariner on January 23rd, 2014 11:29 am

    Free agency storage wars.. haha.. I’d definitely watch that every year.

  21. Eastside Suds on January 23rd, 2014 12:25 pm

    So, you sit at the table across from the girl of your dreams. She lightly holds your hand while she bats her eyes at you. She says the highest bidder among half a dozen men can have her, so you open your wallet and grossly outbid everyone else. But, there is a caveat. She says she will only be your one-and-only if she is given the opportunity to leave you after four years of bliss if she so desires. Even though you just sold the farm to woo her!

    So… is this a good deal for the Yankees or anyone else? WOW! So glad the M’s passed on this one. Sign Santana and get on with life!!!

  22. MrZDevotee on January 23rd, 2014 2:33 pm

    And there we go… The difference between REAL MLB teams and the Mariners…

    Red Sox sign Grady Sizemore for $750,000 plus incentives.

    Mariners sign Endy Chavez for $750,000, IF he makes the team out of Spring Training.

    (I really DO need to change my login name here– the Seattle PI folks come over here and think the name still holds true for me… *sigh*)

  23. eponymous coward on January 23rd, 2014 3:33 pm

    Calmariner – Ackely would be replacing Smoak at first, not Lou Gehrig

    So, the solution to having a 1B who can’t hit well enough to play 1B, is another player who can’t hit well enough to play 1B, by moving said player off of a valuable defensive position?

    I don’t think you are quite thinking this through.

    (Seagar would be about average on any other team)

    Kyle Seager is little bit above average, actually.

    You need to account for the fact that he isn’t making Beltre money, though.

  24. stevemotivateir on January 23rd, 2014 5:44 pm

    ^I don’t think he’s suggesting having Ackley at 1B is a solution. Probably more of a stop-gap.

    But you’re assuming Ackley is a valuable outfield option. Is he?!

    He may be a viable option for LF, but it really sucks that there isn’t much of a selection to choose from.

  25. eponymous coward on January 24th, 2014 8:40 am

    I guess Ackley could kind of turn into a Randy Winn kind of LF/fill-in CF, if his second half performance at the plate wasn’t a mirage. His defense was pretty ugly, though. It would need to be better to make him a good CF.

    The problem is that the OF cast of characters is basically the same as last year, the same guys with the same holes in their game (Saunders, Guti and Ackley), and different guys with the same holes in their game (Morrison and Hart for Morse and Raul). This team could really use a solid CF. At least the team’s figured out you don’t need to spend 15 million for bat-only lummoxes who are over the hill…

  26. Eastside Suds on January 24th, 2014 1:24 pm

    eponymous. I favor your concern, but you can not, with a straight face, compare Morrison and Hart as being the same players as Raul and Morse (at least defensively). They aren’t way better, but they are better defensively. Raul and Morse couldn’t catch a cold! As much as I would like to have selective amnesia about our corner outfieleders last year, I can’t shake the memories of those dreadful performances. Heck, the Root Sports crew switched shots of Raul throwing the ball in everytime he picked it up. It was that bad.

  27. Westside guy on January 24th, 2014 2:59 pm

    Heck, the Root Sports crew switched shots of Raul throwing the ball in everytime he picked it up. It was that bad.

    I believe when I made a similar comment during one of last season’s games, I was told I was imagining it – so I’m glad that someone else noticed it too!

    But there’s a reason both Hart and Morrison were switched out of the outfield (and, as Jeff pointed out some weeks ago, this occurred *before* any injuries had happened). I don’t really want to see either one out there; but I fear Z still doesn’t see defense as important.

  28. eponymous coward on January 24th, 2014 4:37 pm

    But there’s a reason both Hart and Morrison were switched out of the outfield (and, as Jeff pointed out some weeks ago, this occurred *before* any injuries had happened). I don’t really want to see either one out there; but I fear Z still doesn’t see defense as important.


    I would be fine with bat-only lummoxes as OFers if we had a decent CF. Right now the CFs are either marginal in CF defensively (Ackley, Saunders) or made out of glass (Guti). If it was Ackley/Saunders/Morrison/Hart covering LF/RF/DH (four guys covering 3 positions) I’d be considerably more OK.

    Hart and Morrison aren’t OFers the same way Raul and Morse aren’t; they can play the position if you send them out there, but they will probably suck. That is my point about having the same weakness. Different faces, same skill set (decent bat and DINGERS!1!!1! skill, lousy defense).

  29. stevemotivateir on January 24th, 2014 6:07 pm

    Where’s the “So We Didn’t Hire La Russa; Still Need A Real Center Fielder” post?

  30. LongDistance on January 25th, 2014 12:47 am


    I, like you, never thought the not-so-benign neglect of the OF would have been so complete. They could just put up three flags in the outfield saying “Don’t Hit It Here.”

    As for your second post, I completely agree with the spot-on snark. It’s true. The point has come where things have tipped over the line from what they’ve done, could do, or will do this off season, to what they haven’t done or can’t/won’t do…

    And drum beating, dead horse kicking posts, just gets sort of painfully morbid.

    We’re now what we are. And the only thing left to really speculate on is who, beyond Felix and Robinson, will be the possible Bobblehead contenders. (Who’s available for the M’s Hall of Fame this year?)

  31. joel_rosenbaum on January 25th, 2014 12:58 pm

    I flogged Ryan Dempster earlier, and I still think the Mariners should look into him. Short commitment, will be a significant improvement on the back end of the rotation, flyball pitcher who might put up better numbers in Safeco (fences moved in or no, it’s not Fenway).

    Now, apparently, the Red Sox are (weakly) rumored to be exploring a trade for Carp, which sounds ridiculous to me. However, it could be that they recognize a hole in their roster, with four 1B/LF types and even more options in AAA. I wonder if the Mariners would bring Carp back? He might be a better bet than Smoak at this point.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.