So much for the Mariners landing Japanese pitcher Junichi Tazawa. It was a nice plan when it all began, given how Tazawa is only 22, close to being major league ready and not part of the posting process that tends to drive up costs. He is a bit of a gamble. But not an expensive one according to this Boston Globe report, which says the pitcher is going to the Red Sox for three years, $3 million. You’ve got that right. That’s $3 million. Not $30 million. I’ll say it again, he’s not a proven commodity the way Daisuke Matsuzaka was. But that’s the cost of the signing bonus for an upper-tier first-round draft pick. Guess he wanted to go to Boston.
This signing could be significant for the Mariners beyond the mere numbers Tazawa does or doesn’t put up. It used to be that Seattle was considered the destination of choice for Japanese players. At least, that was the perception. But I don’t think we can say that’s the case any longer. Whether it was Kei Igawa choosing the Yankees over the Mariners two years ago (NOTE: Actually, that’s not accurate, the Yankees outbid the Mariners for him in the posting process…my mistake…though I’ll stick with the premise, admittedly on a smaller sample size), Hiroki Kuroda picking the Dodgers over Seattle a year ago, or now Tazawa opting for Boston, it’s becoming obvious the Mariners can no longer rely on reputation or connections from ownership alone to lure Japanese players.
This team has taken a hit image-wise. And in the end, today’s modern Japanese players may be more like Americans than we think. In the end, they may pick the places offering the best money and the best chance of winning. The Mariners might do well in one of those aspects. But the other one has not been a factor in these parts for several years. One more thing at stake for Jack Zduriencik and company as they move forward. Because Tazawa, no matter what he turns into, was certainly not a bank buster.
Photo Credit: AP
December 1, 2008 at 8:29 AM