Update is at the bottom of the post.
According to ESPN Insider, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim aren’t alone in looking at the Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka. It appears that the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox have joined the mix.
In a matter of months, the White Sox went from boring and terrible to interesting. Now they are absolutely fascinating.
They have made the best moves this offseason, far and away, basically acquiring center fielder Adam Eaton for diddly squat, dealing closer Addison Reed before he got too expensive and signing Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu who, if he is even moderately productive, will prove to be an incredibly valuable commodity.
Now the Sox have squared up their crosshair on Tanaka, another international superstar who will likely be undervalued, even despite all the hype. Because of incomplete information about foreign professionals, teams simply can’t tell if a pitcher will be a stud or a dud, no matter his pedigree. This risk factor causes teams to discount a player — I can guarantee you Yu Darvish will greatly exceed the value of his contract over its duration — and I think all dealings with Tanaka will be no different.
Maybe I’m the only one, but I think the White Sox are now the frontrunner to sign Tanaka. They have clearly demonstrated they are rebuilding, and so far they are doing it in all the right ways. They were not afraid to spend to get Abreu, one of the biggest bats to ever come out of Cuba.
And now, here presents a similar situation, where a team with nothing to lose has a shot to come out on top in a bidding war that involves two (former) powerhouse teams trying to curb their payrolls. The Yankees and Angels are both threatening to surpass the luxury tax threshold this year, and signing Tanaka would almost certainly push either one over the edge by the season’s start. The White Sox, on the other hand, have plenty of wiggle room, and I imagine they would be willing to dish out another six-year deal like Abreu’s.
They’re building a team that will be relevant not now, but in three years. Add Tanaka to the mix, and they’ll be more than relevant — they’ll be contenders again. Maybe it’s a bold prediction. But I can’t tell you how excited I will be if it proves to be true.
Updated Jan. 9, 2014: The Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks all plan to look at Tanaka as well. The Mariners are making big moves, but their outfield needs more help than their pitching staff, and an investment in Nelson Cruz may be the better move. The Dodgers have shown they’re not afraid to spend, but they also already have one of the best rotations in the majors and may be less inclined to pay up. Of this group, that leaves the Diamondbacks, Phillies and Cubs. The D-backs have made some decent moves this offseason, but I think they’ll get overshadowed. As for the latter two, I think they are merely posturing, simply tossing their names into the mix. However, the Phillies did sign Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, so perhaps they’re willing to further test the international talent pool.