There might be some substance to the rumors that the Phillies will pursue Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. While far from a definitive statement, when speaking to MLB.com’s Paul Hagen Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro did not deny the fact that the Phillies might possibly be interested in the Japanese righty:
Asked whether he would be willing to make an exception to the informal club guideline against offering long-term contracts to pitchers, as he did for Cole Hamels, Amaro said, “We don’t have hard-and-fast rules. The shorter [contract] the better, but that doesn’t always work out. We’re looking all over the globe.”
Asked if that was a reference to Tanaka, he added, “We have to try to be as open-minded as we can. We can’t really cut off any markets. I don’t know how realistic some of the markets are, but we’ll keep our eyes open.”
If the Phillies do make an attempt to sign Tanaka, it could be seen as the first effect of the rumored upcoming new television contract. The Phillies are likely about to receive a massive influx of money, but money only gets a team so far. The free agency landscape is largely bereft of true impact players, and team management still appears wary of allowing the payroll to exceed the luxury tax threshold. Signing Tanaka would be a way to deal with both of those issues.
It’s difficult predicting how Japanese stars will fare in the major leagues, but the success of other Japanese pitchers like Yu Darvish, combined with Tanaka’s insanely good numbers in Japan, make it a decent bet that he will be a solid performer in America. He could potentially give the Phillies a “Big Three” in their starting rotation that would be the envy of most other teams.
And though his salary would count towards the luxury tax threshold, the posting fee that they would have to pay Tanaka’s Japanese team would not. Outbidding their competitors for this posting fee would be a way for the Phillies to exploit their new financial muscle.
While a non-denial of interest by the GM is a long way from a signing, for those fans looking to see the team make big moves this offseason, at least this is an indication that the Phillies may be preparing to make a big splash.