Japan Pitching super star Masahiro Tanaka’s decision deadline for whether he comes to the majors or stays in Japan ends Friday. Tanaka is currently 25 and plays for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (Try pronouncing the city properly!). His career highlights include being 2007 Pacific League Rookie of the Year, he is a five time NPB All-Star, and won the Eiji Sawamura Award twice, which is the equivalent of the Cy Young award. Tanaka’s past year included winning a championship, a 1.27 ERA, a record of 24-0 (Yes this is true), and 183 strikeouts. His numbers are better than this previous season’s Cy Young winners (Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer).
Tanaka’s major league choices are down to five. The Yankees, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Cubs, and White Sox all have interest in Tanaka. Tanaka also has the option to stay in Japan for another year. The first option for Tanaka is the Yankees who despite losing Robinson Cano, are as always a contender for the AL. The Bombers acquired Carlos Beltran, and Jacoby Ellsbury to make a dangerous outfield. The current starting staff currently includes Hiroki Kuroda, and CC Sabbathia. Ivan Nova provides a solid backbone as well. The Yankees’ payroll is inching closer to 189 million dollars though.
The Dodgers are the second option for Tanaka. The Dodgers are coming off an accomplished 2013, with a lineup and rotation of seasoned veterans for 2014. With a pitching staff such as Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett, and Zack Greinke, the Dodgers’ pitching staff would be just as seasoned as their lineup. They also have a great pitching coach in Rick Honeycutt.
The third option is another NL West team, The Arizona Diamondbacks. Tanaka could possibly be the ace of the staff, that’s currently headed by Pat Corbin. Despite the opportunity to be the top dog on the pitching staff, Arizona’s chances of becoming a full time contender aren’t that big. Even though they have a solid core in Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo, and Miguel Montero, the Diamondbacks’ pitching is inconsistent as well as their bullpen.
The final options are in the windy city. The Cubs and White Sox are both in a major rebuilding state. The Cubs had a bleak offseason that included hiring Rick Renteria as manager. Starlin Castro continues to hold the struggling club together, and like Arizona they need a new ace. The White Sox have a solid ace in Chris Sale, and Jose Abreu is expected to have a solid season.
So what is the best option for Tanaka? If you ask me, it’s Los Angeles. Tanaka would also have to adjust to a new culture, and Los Angeles is in the heart of the Pacific. The Dodgers also are not injury plagued like New York. The bats of the Dodgers and the rest of the pitching staff will be a great welcome to Masahiro Tanaka.