Texas Rangers Payroll and Chances at Landing Masahiro Tanaka

Jeffrey Kahn@jkahn24Correspondent IIDecember 25, 2013

FUKUOKA, JAPAN - MARCH 06:  Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka #17 of Japan looks on during the World Baseball Classic First Round Group A game between Japan and Cuba at Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome on March 6, 2013 in Fukuoka, Japan.  (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)
Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

What are the chances that the Texas Rangers can land Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka when you take into consideration their current payroll?

Tanaka will be officially posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles, according to the Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez, who translated the announcement from Sankei Sports. 

As Bleacher Report featured columnist Tim Daniels explains in his Tuesday article:

There was uncertainty as to whether Tanaka would get posted because of a new agreement between the JPL and MLB that limits bids to $20 million. 


When you combine the low posting fee, the number of teams searching for more pitching heading into next season and Tanaka's tremendous numbers, the process has the potential to become very interesting.

The Rangers have been reported to be in the mix for Tanaka. And why not? A tweet you've most likely seen from ESPN's Jim Bowden highlights the Tanaka competition; this via Twitter.

A bidding war, you say? When fellow Japanese pitcher and current Texas Ranger Yu Darvish came to the team in 2012, the Rangers paid the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters a $51.7 million posting fee. Darvish then went on to accept a contract offer for $60 million over six years.

Flash-forward to October 2013. Cuban star Jose Abreu was expected to make his way over to the United States. It's believed that Tanaka is better than Abreu, so any deal that Abreu gets should be surpassed by Tanaka. Baseball America writer Ben Badler reported this via Twitter.

Abreu signed a six-year, $68 million contract with the Chicago White Sox in December.


Now let's take a look at the Rangers payroll. Fox Sports currently has the Rangers payroll at nearly $140 million. However, there are players listed to that number that are not currently signed to the team.

The following players with salaries should be subtracted from the near $140 million: Nelson Cruz ($10.25 million), Matt Garza ($10.25 million), Lance Berkman ($10 million), Jose Contreras ($2.5 million; signed minor league contract), Colby Lewis ($2 million; signed minor league contract), Jeff Baker ($1.75 million), Derek Lowe ($1.25 million), Brent Lillibridge ($750,000; signed minor league contract), Josh Wilson ($650,000; signed minor league contract), Travis Blackley ($550,000), Justin Germano ($500,000), Edwar Cabrera ($490,000), Kyle McClellan ($490,000), Ross Wolf ($490,000).

Those 14 players make up $41.92 million and are not listed on the Texas Rangers roster per the official team website.

The Rangers signed Choo to a six-year $130 million contract.
The Rangers signed Choo to a six-year $130 million contract.Harry How/Getty Images

With those players subtracted from Fox Sports' listed payroll, the Rangers would be at 36 players worth roughly $98 million. Then add Shin-Soo Choo's roughly $18.5 million a year as the 37th player for the 40-man roster, and you're looking a roughly $116.5 million. That leaves three players missing (Alex Castellanos included) with low-budget salaries. Let's say they make $490,000 each. 

Adding all that up, as of Christmas Day the Rangers have an estimated payroll of $118 million. 

The Rangers also received $30 million in cash from the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade. While that was used to balance out contracts, it's still something to keep in mind when talking payrolls and salaries.

Here's a look at the Opening Day payrolls over the last five years plus Christmas Day's current estimation:

Christmas Day$118 million
2013$127 million
2012$120 million
2011$92 million
2010$55 million
2009$68 million

So what can be expected from the 2014 Opening Day payroll?

Based off the pattern in the table above, the Rangers should start next season around the $134 million range. If you're a mathematician you might use some type of formula to get a more accurate estimation, instead of this guesstimation.

However, general manager Jon Daniels said he expects the 2014 payroll to be a little bit less than in 2013. Evan Grant of SportsDay DFW reported what Daniels had to say regarding the payroll in an October article.

General manager Jon Daniels said Thursday that he expected the 2014 payroll to be in a 'similar range, but a little below,' the 2013 figure. The Rangers spent approximately $125.3 million on payroll in 2013, eclipsing the previous high total of $120 million last year.

But this was before the Rangers welcomed Fielder. And when the Rangers added Fielder, Daniels said that he didn't expect to make any more major moves. Then he signed Choo. Lesson: don't expect Daniels to show his cards.

Landing Tanaka

Based on the information that has been gathered, I expect the Rangers to make a run at Tanaka. I do expect the Rangers to surpass the 2013 Opening Day payroll despite what Daniels has said. He surprised Texas with Fielder, and he surprised many with Choo. 

Infielder Kensuke Tanaka will be with the Texas Rangers in 2014.
Infielder Kensuke Tanaka will be with the Texas Rangers in 2014.Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

But it's not a certainty that the Rangers have the right price for Tanaka. It's a bidding war, and Tanaka ultimately gets to decide where he wants to go. Unfortunately I don't have any inside info on what Tanaka is thinking, but here are some facts:

  • The Rangers have fellow Japanese superstar pitcher Yu Darvish.
  • The first person Tanaka followed on Twitter (@t_masahiro18) was Darvish (@faridyu).
  • The Rangers added fellow Japanese player Kensuke Tanaka on December 20, 2013.
  • The Rangers have been looking to add an ace, having being linked to David Price, per Phil Rogers of MLB.com.

Personally, seeing that the Rangers signed Kensuke Tanaka just four days before the Masahiro Tanaka posting news seems like an indicator to me. Does Daniels know something? I don't know what one Tanaka's relationship is with the other, but if you can read Japanese you might have a good chance at translating some articles on the two.

Finally, what's this previously mentioned bidding war all about? Let's say that Tanaka is only interested in money. I think the Rangers lose to the Yankees or Dodgers. Who knows what money they want to throw at Tanaka. However, I think the Rangers with their Japanese players give Tanaka a price worth coming to Arlington for.

A quick pulse from around the web and the Twittersphere is that Tanaka is looking at a $100 million contract.

Another look around and you'll find ESPN's Buster Olney reporting that an MLB executive believes Tanaka could get up to $150 million. He reported this via Twitter.

With what Abreu and Darvish both got, I would have expected Tanaka's contract to likelier be around six to seven years, worth roughly $80-90 million. That number would put the Rangers somewhere in the ballpark of a $129.5-133 million payroll which is easily manageable.

If Tanaka does indeed want six years, $100 million then the Rangers would be looking at an estimated 2014 Opening Day payroll of $134.5 million. Keep in mind that Darvish is set to make $10 million in 2014 from his six-year, $60 million contract plus posting fee.

If Tanaka wants $150 million?

The Rangers would be looking at somewhere between $18-25 million a year. This would put the payroll at a maximum of $143 million. I don't find the Rangers willing to do this.

So what's Tanaka's ego? I honestly don't know if Tanaka just wants the highest deal possible, or if he wants to play with fellow countrymen and be the missing piece to a World Series contender.

Sure, other teams have Japanese players, but Tanaka and Darvish can go down in the history books for both Japan and Texas. I give the Rangers a 45 percent* chance of picking up Tanaka at Dallas Fort-Worth Airport.

How much is Masahiro Tanaka worth to MLB teams?
How much is Masahiro Tanaka worth to MLB teams?Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

*I want to go with 55 percent because I believe Daniels wants to add Tanaka for Darvish, but my gut says there are still other factors. What do the Angels and Diamondbacks have in store? Are the Giants and Mariners dark-horse candidates? I also don't know exactly what kind of money the Rangers want to spend. Taking on a $150 million contract is very steep. Again, Daniels doesn't show his cards. Bottom line: If Daniels want to win a World Series next year, why not increase the likelihood by coughing up some extra money for Tanaka?

What do you think about Tanaka first following Darvish on Twitter? What do you think the chances are that the Rangers sign Tanaka? Let me hear your input in the comment section below.