Tanaka will be a perfect replacement for Holland.
According to this tweet by Anthony Andro of Fox Sports Southwest, the Texas Rangers' rotation took a huge blow Friday:
Rangers Derek Holland to miss start of season after suffering left knee injury Tuesday. Return timeline midseason.— Anthony Andro (@aandro) January 10, 2014
The Rangers must now work quickly to find a viable replacement in the No. 2 spot that Holland was expected to man. Without Derek Holland, this rotation is not World Series-caliber, and his extended absence likely knocks Texas down a level in the American League's current pecking order of contenders.
That is, unless the Rangers go all-in and sign Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka. Here are a couple of reasons the Rangers should now press harder than ever to sign Tanaka.
One: He is the only pitcher available in free agency who could adequately replace Holland until midseason, when he is expected to return to the rotation. Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana will be cheaper, but they both have been highly inconsistent over their careers.
Also, since Tanaka has never pitched in the majors he would have an instant advantage of unfamiliarity over hitters who have never faced him. He has an impressive repertoire, and although it isn't as deadly as that of Yu Darvish, he will have the element of surprise on his side for at least the first part of this season.
He and Darvish would form a killer one-two punch at the top of the rotation, followed by Martin Perez, Matt Harrison and a No. 5 starter, which still seems up in the air.
Two: Tanaka made sense for Texas to begin with, even before Holland's freak injury. He is 25 years old, which is generally a comfortable age to hand a guy a massive deal. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, Tanaka could easily earn a deal in the $125 million range.
Before Holland's injury, the Rangers probably would not have been in serious bidding for Tanaka. But their situation has become desperate. They must at least replace Holland's production, and I don't see any other free-agent option who could do that.
The Rangers will have the money needed to sign Tanaka. The team is entering into a 20-year television deal with Fox Sports Southwest that will pay it $3 billion over the life of the contract, which is worth $80 million per season. Per season.
This new deal should give the Rangers plenty more confidence in handing Tanaka an albatross contract. He would be here long term, and he would strengthen the rotation even more when Holland does return.
I'm on record here at B/R saying that Texas should pass on Tanaka. But the current situation couldn't have taken a more dramatic turn. General manager Jon Daniels needs to take even more dramatic action now.
Signing Tanaka will repair the Rangers' rotation for now until Holland returns. When Holland takes the mound again, the Rangers' rotation would be the best in baseball.
This is about a short-term fix as well as long-term sustainability. Daniels needs to make this happen.