The bidding to earn Masahiro Tanaka‘s services has just started, but already it is starting to get out of control. Recent reports make it seem like all but a certainty that Tanaka will net himself a contract in excess of $100 million over six years, and that is in addition to the $20 million posting fee that the signing team will pay to the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Yes, Masahiro Tanaka is an extremely talented pitcher. He is just 25 years old with a tantalizing repertoire, and he could very well wind up being worth every penny he receives. But here is the issue: Tanaka has not yet thrown a single pitch in the major leagues, and major league teams are still willing to offer him that type of money. With that in mind, every other legitimate ace in baseball should be offered that exact same deal.
Six years and $100 million works out to $16.67 million per year. Pitchers like David Price and Chris Sale have the ability to earn even more than that when they hit free agency. But what do the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Sox have to lose making their aces that offer? Price loves Tampa Bay and Sale has made Chicago his home. That is significant money, and maybe a hometown discount makes that a realistic starting point for a discussion. Maybe that type of contract could make sense for the next tier of pitcher. Tanaka may not be an option for the Kansas City Royals, but would they offer James Shields that type of contract? The Chicago Cubs want to keep Jeff Samardzija if at all possible. They actually are interested in Tanaka, but if it doesn’t work out, could they consider offering Samardzija the contract they would have given Tanaka? What about Jon Lester with the Boston Red Sox or Jordan Zimmermann with the Washington Nationals? In some of those cases, maybe the offer would be a little higher or a little lower, but each of them is a surer bet than Tanaka and a pitcher his team desperately hopes to retain. How could their teams not approach them with the same type of contract? Plenty of them will say no, but it is worth a try in every case. Just one team will wind up with Masahiro Tanaka when it is all said and done. However, quite a few other franchises have a pitcher worth that same type of money, and teams should be willing to give them whatever contract Tanaka will receive to keep them around.