New York Mets must avoid overpaying for Masahiro Tanaka
By Mason Smoller
Even with all the money the New York Mets have, signing veteran starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka would be a bad move
The New York Mets are in a position that no fan saw coming. With new owner Steve Cohen, the team is finally set to be the major market team people expect in New York. One that players, such as starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, are excited to play for.
From the culture to the payroll, things are changing in Queens, and with that the roster too. The team has a great young core, though has a handful of needs from catcher, to center field, and more starting pitching.
With the expectations around the team, the Mets are expected to be in on multiple superstars available, as well as every top player on the market. There are playoff hopes surrounding this team, and Cohen wants this team contending for a World Series over the next few years.
That being said, the Mets must be smart with money. In other words, the Mets must avoid the temptation of overpaying to sign free agent starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka may offer the Mets experience
Back in 2014, former Japanese baseball league superstar Masahiro Tanaka made his MLB debut with the New York Yankees. He pitched lights out, giving up only two earned runs over seven innings of work, striking out eight. From that moment on, he has been lights out.
Over seven years in pinstripes, Tanaka has a 78-46 record in 174 games, with a 3.74era over his career. He has made two all-star games and has plenty of postseason experience.
Not to mention, Mets fans would love to steal a fan favorite from their crosstown rivals.
Tanaka never became the elite pitcher many thought he would after posting a 3.12era over his first three seasons. However, despite his ups and downs at times, he has been a model of consistency, something that certainly would intrigue the Mets.
Tanaka has averaged about 27 starts per year prior to the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, in which he made 10 starts. Additionally, Tanaka has never had an earned run average over 4.74, with five seasons below 3.75. He also boasts a career 8.5 strikeout per nine innings mark.
But his price may be out of range
The Yankees could have extended Tanaka a qualifying offer worth $18.9-million, similar to what the Mets gave Stroman. Except they did not. The belief is that the Yankees, despite multiple starters being free agents, could entertain bringing Tanaka back for less than the qualifying offer should they elect to.
Except with the way the market shaped up, there’s a good chance Tanaka gets a bidding war. Outside of National League Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer, there are few pitchers as good and consistent as Tanaka. Especially with Stroman and San Francisco Giants’ Kevin Gausman returning on qualifying offers.
Moreover, a bidding war for Tanaka should force the Mets’ hand elsewhere. The team is in play for many other high-profile free agents and should not be overpaying for Tanaka, who recently turned 32-years old.
The Mets do have a need to fill out their rotation but have plenty of other options. In house, the team could keep Seth Lugo or David Peterson in the starting lineup, as well as Robert Gsellman or Steven Matz.
There are also plenty of other starters they could target, who will not command a contract that could harm their pursuit of the top-tier free agents. The second-tier group includes Taijuan Walker and Jake Odorizzi, both of who are younger options. There are also plenty of veterans such as Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Mike Leake, Mike Minor, Jose Quintana, and more who the Mets could sign to fill out the back of their rotation.
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In the end, given the state of the market in regards to Tanaka’s likely price range and the availability of other options, the Mets must avoid overpaying for the 32-year old’s services.