As it is with off-season hype, we don’t know if Masahiro Tanaka will be all that his free agency has built him up to be. What we do know is that young starting pitchers with a track record (in Japan, in his case) are not free agents very often.
The Los Angeles Angels know all about off-season hype. Two years ago they swooped in and signed first baseman/DH Albert Pujols to a $240 million deal. Last year they signed outfielder Josh Hamilton to a $125 million deal. Neither of those big moves propelled them to relevance, however, let alone a post-season berth.
Tanaka has expressed an interest in pitching in California. Should the Angels open things up for a contract in excess of $100 million for the third year in a row? Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com wrote the following about the issue earlier today:
The other is that this is as good a time as any to splurge, because Tanaka is a free agent at a relatively young age, has more upside than any other available pitcher, won’t cost a Draft pick and the Halos — their championship window closing tighter by the year — still badly need high-upside starting pitching.”
The more important question might be if that championship window ever cracked open in the first place. The team re-acquired Tyler Skaggs earlier this off-season, meaning that Tanaka would join a rotation that is already significantly improved over 2013.
Owner Arte Moreno would have to drop even more money to account for the luxury tax. Whether or not this team is close enough to warrant that move is debatable, but if the Angels do somehow land Tanaka, it will only amp up the pressure that’s already on this team.