Any time there is a coveted free agent on the market, the A’s are out of the conversation. International players are a different story though. Five years ago they came in second to the Reds for the services of soft-tosser Aroldis Chapman, and more recently they signed Yoenis Cespedes, a move that continues to pay dividends. This time around, the A’s have been linked to Masahiro Tanaka. According to Bill Madden of New York Daily News, one executive told him,
“Watch out for Oakland. They’ve got as much money as any team and they like doing these big international things.”
Oakland likes to exploit market inefficiencies and pay players for what they believe they can do. If the A’s believe Tanaka is the real deal, I can see them making a serious run at his services.
Let’s say the A’s DO have enough money and are seriously interested in Tanaka. I would love to have him in Oakland. When you compare Tanaka’s Japanese stats with Yu Darvish’s they are very similar. Over the course of their last three seasons in Japan, Tanaka’s ERA is actually lower than Darvish’s. The one area that stands out is Darvish is a dominant strikeout pitcher, and Tanaka is just a very good strikeout pitcher. He averages about 190 K’s over the past three seasons, ranking him in the top 10 in the AL. Plus, with all of the matchups between Darvish and Tanaka throughout the season that would be broadcast nationwide and in Japan, the A’s would gain some attention on a bigger scale.
Adding Tanaka to an already solid A’s rotation would have it looking something like this:
Parker, Gray, Tanaka, Griffin, Kazmir. On paper, that is nice but very righty heavy. Tanaka is placed third so that there will be less pressure on him out of the gate, allowing him to ease into the position of a MLB pitcher. After the all-star break they could slot him first in the rotation if Bob Melvin wanted.
Each time the A’s get eliminated from the playoffs, it becomes clear they need a legitimate ace. I don’t know if the A’s have enough money to throw at Tanaka, but the A’s are definitely all-in for 2014 and Tanaka could be that ace the A’s need to tranquilize the Tiger-Beast, Justin Verlander.