Article Written By: Manny Alcala
Masahiro Tanaka has quickly become the most wanted free agent pitcher in the MLB. In his most recent season in Japan with the Rakuten Eagles he went undefeated with a record of 24-0, 1.27 ERA, and 183 strike-outs. Not only are his numbers very impressive, but his delivery is similar to Yu Darvish’s. Just like his delivery, teams are predicting that Tanaka can have the same or even better success in the MLB than Darvish. Tanaka has frozen the pitching free agent market leaving pitchers like Matt Garza and Ervin Santana waiting because teams are trying to see if they can land Tanaka before they go and meet with the rest of the free agent pitchers. So without further ado, here are my top five landing spots for Masahiro Tanaka.
New York Yankees
The Yankees have been very busy this off-season signing players like Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran in the midst of losing Robinson Cano to the Mariners. There was no doubt that they had money to spend this off-season and that is what they have been doing. Let’s not forget that they also strongly pursued Shin-Soo Choo, but Choo declined their offer. With a rotation that features guys like CC Sabathia and Japanese born pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, Tanaka can come and give the Yankees rotation a huge boost. It appears that every ballplayer’s dream is to play for the Yankees because of the team’s history. You can never count the Yankees out on landing a big free agent. NEVER!
Los Angeles Dodgers
Tanaka has stated that he would rather play on the West coast because it is closer to his home in Japan. That sounds like music to the Dodgers ears. The Dodgers have no reason to not try to lure in Tanaka. With a rotation that already features Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, and Haren, just imagine the super rotation the Dodgers would build if they sign Tanaka, he can be the player that gets the Dodgers over the hump in the playoffs.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Let’s not forget about the Angels, another West coast team. Not only are they in the West coast, but they tend to surprise the baseball world by sneaking in and signing big free agents. They did it in 2011 when they signed Albert Pujols, and they did again in 2012 when they signed Josh Hamilton. While they brought in power bats, their pitching was poor. This season they have already made a trade in which they acquired two left-handed pitchers (Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago) it would really benefit the Angels if they can sign Tanaka. With his signing, the Angels would have a much better looking rotation this year than the last couple of seasons.
The Mariners have already made their biggest acquisition when they signed Robinson Cano, but what if they could bring in Tanaka and make this a really effective off-season. If there is a time when the Mariners are going to go all in why not do it now when Cano in his best years of career. With Felix Hernandez leading the rotation, Tanaka would quickly become the number 2 starter in the Mariners rotation creating a very threatening one two punch with king Felix. With an offense that appears to be better than last year’s just by the signing of Robinson Cano and the fact that the AL West division might be the toughest division this upcoming season, Tanaka could help the Mariners contend for a playoff spot.
The Diamondbacks are the wild-card team for me in the Tanaka sweepstakes. They already made their big move in acquiring Mark Trumbo from the Angels and appeared like they were done negotiating for this year, but having pitchers never hurts. If the D-backs have the opportunity to get Tanaka it would help them compete with the Dodgers for the NL West division title. With a young rotation featuring the likes of Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley, Tanaka can create a really nice top 3 of the rotation starters.
It appears that the Yankees are the team that wants Tanaka the most, but it could be an issue when it comes to the fact that Tanaka would rather play in the West coast. I predict that the Seattle Mariners will be the lucky ones and sign Masahiro Tanaka. I really do believe that the Mariners want to give it all they have and make a really strong push to build a contending team. They still have money to spend and after having numerous losing seasons they can turn it around and take a huge step towards a better future.