Here at Inside the ‘Zona, we don’t report news very often, instead opting to analyze things that either did, can, should or should not happen. But this is TANAKA MANIA and I (unilaterally) suppose we can make an exception, Here’s the news:
(*Note: this bit of American news stems from a Nikkan Sports report that can found in Japanese. My intentions were to use the original report for quotes and information, but after a copy/paste into Google Translate, I quickly realized that this wasn’t an option. Google decided to translate the copied text into a discussion of the team owners “explor(ing) the bellies of one another,” “mosquitoes,” and revealed the fact that Derrick Hall is “CEO of da army.” Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot to draw from the original report, unless you speak Japanese, so I’ll be cobbling together what I can from the states.)
Assuming the report is accurate, my first question was whether or not the reported offer included the $20 million posting fee. While the answer is unclear, my initial instinct is to believe that the offer does not include the posting fee. As we’ve learned over the past few weeks, the new NPB posting system is allowing teams to break up the posting fee into installments to be paid over time, rather than having to cough up $20 million all at once. This, of course, is good news for Arizona as it doesn’t, potentially, have to pay the entire posting fee and the first year of the player’s salary simultaneously, saving them a maximum of $10 million in the first year of a deal with a player like Tanaka. Any sign of financial flexibly is to be welcomed for the Diamondbacks and this certainly qualifies.
Of course, we’d be remise to not address how a 6-year, $120 million contract affects the team. By my count, that would bring payroll close to or over the $120 million mark for 2014, easily a record for the franchise (previous high: $102.8 million in 2001). This meshes well with a some comments leaked from the organization indicating that the team’s payroll could end up in the $113-118 million range. There’s money to spend in Arizona, at least on Tanaka.
Going forward, JJ Putz, Brandon McCarthy, Eric Chavez and the deferred payments of Heath Bell all come off the books in 2015, saving the organization roughly $21 million. Of course, several young players will receive arbitration raises (inlcuding Miley, Parra, Reed, Trumbo and others) and those will eat up a good chunk of the money saved. Looking to 2015, the team would have to be able stomach another payroll of $115-120 million, and the fact that they’ve made this offer to Tanaka suggests that they’re comfortable doing just that.
Perhaps the previous discussion is putting the cart before the horse in the sense that we don’t know what kind of offer the Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, Yankees and others might submit to Casey Close, Tanaka’s agent. The 6-year, $120 million mark seems to be a fair starting point, but I’m doubtful that this is the end number. As Dave Cameron pointed out earlier this month at FanGraphs, our general expectations of top-player contracts usually undersell the final deal. Arizona was bold enough to offer an AAV of $20 million, but if the Dodgers or Cubs are willing to offer $22.5 million or add an extra year, will the Diamondbacks be able to counter? Did they start their bidding with their highest offer?
That’s yet to be seen, but with about a week left until Tanaka is expected to decide on a team and clear up the logjam that’s holding back the rest of free agency, my gut tells me that the Diamondbacks won’t win with that contract offer. That might sound crazy, which I guess it kind of is because Tanaka’s a guy that’s never pitched in the major leagues and there are some mechanical concerns in regards to his delivery. For anyone that’s ever bought or sold a car, you know that where the bidding starts isn’t often where the bidding finishes. It’s been reported that Arizona can’t and won’t get into a bidding war for Tanaka’s services, but if they want a real shot at signing the Japanese superstar, they might need to extend a slightly bigger offer.
All we know right now is that the Diamondbacks have jumped into the fray with a strong offer. We don’t know the years and/or figures submitted by other teams at the moment, and that’s because other teams seem to do a better job of not divulging all information publicly just because a question is asked. Arizona is comfortable being the exact opposite of the “mystery team” and we will have to wait to see whether their offer holds up, if they counter with a larger one and if they can win the Tanaka sweepstakes altogether. I’m still a believer that Arizona gets outbid, but at least we know that they’re not playing around here.
$20 million is a lot of money and Arizona is legitimately making a run at this thing. I know baseball fans can get restless in the winter, but know that the Diamondbacks are sincerely trying to build a winner. We’ll have to wait and see just how that plays out.
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