Do you REALLY Want Tanaka?
Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka has become the homecoming king of the hot stove league. Quality pitchers including Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana are clearly fallback options as free agency came to a sudden halt once the right-hander was posted. Now, we sit collectively, bored out of our frigging minds waiting for the off-season to perk up again.
At the same time, the holidays ending means we can begin assessing dynasty league rosters and make moves. After trading the farm system for Andrew McCutchen in a new league, it’s time to decide whether to aggressively bid on Tanaka. You are probably in the same boat with the pitcher. He’ll command a premium in salary leagues and is likely to go at the top of most drafts. To land him, an aggressive approach is needed.
Wednesday morning, I’ll be participating in a slow roll mock dynasty league draft at Baseball Prospectus (I expect you all to root for me with vigor). With the seventh pick, Tanaka might be there for the taking, but do I want to go that route?
If you want to check out last year’s results, check the links below.
My picks last season included Taijuan Walker (1.10), Christian Yelich (2.4), Francisco Lindor (3.10), Danny Hultzen (4.4), Julio Teheran (5.10), Courtney Hawkins (6.4), Roman Quinn (7.10), Nick Franklin (8.4), Domingo Tapia (9.10), Jairo Beras (10.4).
Last season, my strategy was simple. Take the best value early and shoot the moon with my last few picks (Nick Franklin forced me to deviate). The value picks worked out well. The tools guys? not so much.
At seven, will the trio of Tanaka, Taijuan Walker and Archie Bradley be available? It’s not likely, but possible with the number of strong middle infield prospects in this year’s class. If all three are on the board, Tanaka seems like the obvious choice to go first. Not so fast! In that scenario, Archie Bradley would be my first choice with Taijuan Walker a close second. Tanaka would be third because I prefer pitching prospects with elite ceilings to ones who are safer plays.
I have little doubt Tanaka will be a very good pitcher. If he received 15-20 million per season, he’s a good bet to be at least an even money pitcher at the Major League level in terms of WAR value. But a Tanaka who works in the low 90’s with a heavy splitter is not the power profile fantasy owners covet.
A mid-90’s fastball and biting curve or slider is the magic 200 strikeout seasons are made of. Both Walker and Bradley have the chance to do that in time. I fully suspect Tanaka to be a successful worm burner who piles up quality starts, but that’s not a fantasy ace. It’s not Clayton Kershaw. It’s not Felix Hernandez. It’s not Yu Darvish either.
Bidding heavily on Tanaka should be limited to owners who fit two categories.
1. You already own one of the top pitchers in the game and Tanaka can serve as a strong #2.
2. You have a chance of winning it all
The team I inherited recently won 98 games in 2013 and the staff is headlined by King Felix. Cliff Lee comes off the books after the 2014 season, so Tanaka would be a great “get” considering Trevor Cahill is the current third starter. In this scenario, he fits too perfectly to pass on. In essence, Tanaka equals title.
Before bidding, honestly assess your team needs and whether Tanaka is the missing link. If he’s not, then it’s a good idea to let the bidding war occur with you on the sidelines.
4 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman /
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