Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka #17 of Japan pitches during the World Baseball Classic. He has been posted to the MLB by his home team, Rakuten.
Imagine if the Dodgers could build a rotation that was even stronger than their current starting five of Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, Haren, and Beckett/Billingsley. Of course it is possible, but can they do it without giving up any prospects or future draft picks?
Right now there is not a premier MLB pitcher available as a free agent, but there is a chance to import a foreign talent. You will hear the name Masahiro Tanaka for the rest of the off-season as teams around the MLB bid for a chance to bring his talents from Japan to the US.
Tanaka is currently a pitcher for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. The 25-year-old has been with Rakuten since he was 18, and has accomplished a lot in his 7-year professional career.
Aside from boasting a 2.30 career ERA, with a 1.108 WHIP and 4.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio, he has racked up a 99-35 record. In 2013 he was a perfect 24-0 in 28 games en route to setting a record for most consecutive wins in the Nippon league.
Rakuten has posted Tanaka, making him available to any team in the Major Leagues. In order to sign him the MLB will, likely, have to pay Rakuten $20 million, on top of Tanaka's contract. The $20 million "posting fee" does not count against a team's payroll though.
Tanaka is a talent that has drawn interest from many teams. The New York Yankees, Anaheim Angels, and Arizona Diamondbacks are rumored to be heavily involved, but there are plenty of others that have been less public about their interactions.
So why do the Dodgers need to get involved? Well, if 2013 proved anything it was that you can never have too much pitching.
The litany of injuries to the starting pitching showed a surprising lack of depth in Dodger organization. It might not be the best idea to rely on Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley to hold down the final spot in the rotation after losing each of them to injury last year.
Also, Tanaka is really good. Sure, he has not played in the MLB, but he did participate in the Beijing Olympics and the World Baseball Classic, where he faced, and succeeded against MLB talents.
The Dodgers already have $240 committed to their 2014 payroll, and several hefty contracts beyond in 2015 and 2016. Signing Tanaka will mean adding yet another high-dollar, long-term deal to the books and Luxury Tax penalties further down the road.
It seems like a given that the Dodgers will be active within the Tanaka-sweepstakes. Just imagine the rotation if they do get him: Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, Tanaka, Harden. Wow, let's do this.