Perhaps, you’d prefer the title “Much Ado About Nothing”?
Either way, the hubbub and exaggeration over the Athletics non-existent pursuit of Japanese pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka was silenced by the tweet below from A’s beat writer Susan Slusser on Friday.
With a few swift keystrokes Slusser had put to end a few weeks of tempered excitement at the thought of amplifying the formidable Oakland rotation with a fancy Japanese import. Granted, the momentum was largely aided by a severe lack of Athletics-related news since shortly before the New Year. The likes of which have left Oakland fans severely deprived of much of anything noteworthy since Billy Beane‘s mad acquisition spree in early December.
Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
As many an interest was piqued by the recent New York Daily News article by Bill Madden, the overlooked factor was that source credited offered nothing more than vague speculation.
"“Watch out for Oakland,” the executive told the Daily News. “They’ve got as much money as any team and they like doing these big international things.”"
With that said, many took the statement and ran with it under the interpretation that the Athletics were in fact, in on the bidding for Tanaka. Although historically there was some credence to the thought that Tanaka would be Oakland’s next International coup, the examples in the form of Yoenis Cespedes and Aroldis Chapman should come with an asterisk.
Cespedes and Chapman, were both Cuban defectors granted baseball free agency and the ability to agree to the contract of their choice from any interested team. In Cespedes’s case, the Athletics offered a shorter deal in the terms of years and a sufficient amount of money that enticed the slugger to sign on the dotted line, despite more lucrative albeit longer deals on the market. With Chapman, the Athletics essentially lost a bidding war to the Cincinnati Reds for his services.
An agreement with Tanaka would obviously take a greater hurdle to clear, and would surpass the somewhat basic acquisition of a regular free agent. Although the new posting agreement will prevent the heights of a Daisuke Matsuzaka-like posting fee, the rewarded team will still be expected to pay around $20 mm for the right to negotiate with Tanaka to his former team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles. From there, the 25-year old is expected to net somewhere in the neighborhood of $140 mm in a multi-year deal.
So the basic idea of the Athletics making a $160 mm, long-term commitment to Tanaka when they really don’t have a single player signed to a non-arbitration contract past 2015 seems somewhat unfathomable. As Billy Beane mentioned earlier this winter, the A’s are not operating under the guise of a 5-year plan. They have a year-to-year lease in a decaying stadium, and unless they were able to convince Tanaka to accept a shorter deal to play on the West Coast, a signing appears to be nothing more than a pipe dream.