Masahiro Tanaka in L.A. but Do the Dodgers Need Him?


Ned Colletti didn’t mention the impending arrival of Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka to the U.S. on Wednesday during the press conference held at Dodger Stadium during the Winter Development Camp. When questions arose surrounding the Dodgers interest in Tanaka, Colletti referred to the process as being in the “feeling out” stage. Tanaka’s representatives, including agent Casey Close, were researching the different Major League markets and teams. Ned brought up the fact that he and Casey Close go way back and have talked. Colletti didn’t go into any specifics about the Dodgers intentions in signing Tanaka, but I get the sense that they still are interested and will be a contender to land him.

Tanaka derby: meetings begin at secret LA locale. dodgers, cubs, chisox, dbacks, yanks, others in.

— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 9, 2014

Jon Heyman of thinks that about a dozen teams could potentially meet with Tanaka and his agent during his stay in Los Angeles. The Dodgers, cross-town rival Angels, Cubs, Diamondbacks, White Sox and Yankees have been the teams who have rumored high interest in the pitcher. Other teams which have been reportedly more mildly interested are the Rangers, Blue Jays, Mariners, and Twins. Tanaka was also scheduled to meet with a Los Angeles based physician who could provide a medical report to interested parties.

After much drama and back-and-forth stories, Tanaka was posted by his team the Rakuten Golden Eagles last month. He has until

Masahiro Tanaka is in Los Angeles meeting with MLB teams.

Friday, January 24th to reach a deal with a MLB team. If a deal isn’t reached by the deadline, Tanaka would return to Japan to pitch next season.

Tanaka had an impressive 24-0 record with a 1.27 ERA last year with the Eagles. Over seven seasons, he is 99-35 with a career 2.30 ERA. The 25-year old has stated that he prefers to pitch on either the West or East coast making Los Angeles a top choice for him. Let’s hope that his agent and or the Dodgers show Tanaka around the city, and he enjoys the weather and culture.

I would love for the Dodgers to sign Tanaka. Like I said before, a rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, Masahiro Tanaka and Dan Haren would be the best in the league and perhaps in all of baseball. I’ve always been a fan of Asian pitchers, and I admire their focus and attention to detail with their game. After the success of Hyun-jin Ryu who transitioned from Korean baseball to the Majors wonderfully, the idea of adding Tanaka seems like a move which would give the Dodgers a very deep starting rotation for years to come (as soon as they lock up Kershaw that is).

While signing Tanaka would be a bonus this offseason, the Dodgers rotation will still be strong without him. They will still have a multitude of other pitching options like Josh Beckett, Matt Magill, Stephen Fife, Zach Lee, and Ross Stripling who all stand a chance of making the team out of Spring Training. Ned Colletti also estimated that Scott Elbert could be back as early as June, and Chad Billingsley will return around July. Josh Beckett should be ready to go for Spring Training, and the Dodgers still owe him $15.75 million next season.

You can never have enough pitching, and Ned Colletti reinforced that notion during the conference on Wednesday when he brought up the situation last season when the Dodgers succumbed to a plethora of injuries forcing them to pick up more starting pitching even though they went into the Spring with extra arms. The Dodgers could still sign Tanaka and use Billingsley out of the bullpen when he returns mid-season. Josh Beckett, who will most likely get a spot in the rotation if healthy because of contract obligations, will have the most to prove. If Beckett should fail to bounce back, the Dodgers shouldn’t have a qualm about bringing Zach Lee into the mix.

A special meeting between Zach Lee and Don Newcombe. Photo: Stacie Wheeler

Lee, the 22-year old top Dodgers prospect, is just about ready to make his mark in the Majors. Lee seemed confident and poised during the Winter Development Program this week, and he is focused on making the team out of camp this year. With Chattanooga last season, Lee went 10-10 with a 3.22 ERA in 28 games (25 starts). The right-hander struck out 131 batters in 142 2/3 innings of work. I was able to be on the field as Zach Lee and Don Newcombe had a special meeting on Wednesday after the workout. Lee listened to Newcombe as the great Dodger pitcher offered advice to the up and coming pitcher. Like Sandy Koufax mentoring Clayton Kershaw, it is really beneficial for these young players to be able to speak with Dodger greats and soak in their guidance.

I’m rooting for Zach Lee to win the last spot in the rotation this Spring. Even though I would be happy to see Masahiro Tanaka in Blue, there is something special when a homegrown prospect breaks through to the Majors. Even if the Dodgers don’t land Tanaka, they have plenty of pitching options which don’t require any sort of trades. The Dodgers have said that they want to go younger, and I completely agree.

Two Zach(k)s in the rotation for 2014!