Assuming the costs to be equal, would you rather have Masahiro Tanaka on a six-year deal, or any two domestic free agents on five-year deals?
The arguments for Tanaka:
- He compares to Hiroki Kuroda and is only 25-years-old, meaning he could be penciled in for approximately four wins per season through the life of the contract. The caveat is that he's a pitcher, which means he can't be predicted to do anything predictably. But that's also true of the domestic free agents.
- He has star-quality upside, maybe an 8-win season if everything breaks right. Whatever you want to say about Ubaldo Jimenez, I just don't think we can dream on him in the same way. Also, if you get to the playoffs, you'd rather have one ace than two innings-eaters.
- Tanaka brings at least some additional revenue because he's international.
- Tanaka is not boring, and recent Mariners (except Felix) have been boring.
The arguments for two domestics:
- Their talent levels have been established and are more predictable. While it's possible to dream on Tanaka's 8-win season, it's easier to pencil in 3-win seasons from Garza, Jimenez, or Santana. The floor is lower.
- You get the wins up front-- most projection systems have the domestics down for about 3 wins, meaning you can pencil in 6 wins for 2014. The downside of this is that by year five, you're expecting replacement-level performance, if any.
- Because pitchers are pitchers and they're going to break down, you mitigate your risks by having two pitchers.
- Depth. While you may not get the concentration of talent that Tanaka-dreamers hope for, the Mariners are not suffering from an over-crowded rotation. If signing two pitchers means that Paxton starts the year in the bullpen, that's probably not a bad thing. If the rotation going into 2015 is crowded, trade!
Most other factors cancel out-- you could argue that it's not feasible to land two of the domestic free agents, but I don't think it's any tougher than landing one Tanaka. If you've got the money to top out the market, it's feasible. There's risk and upside involved in any signing. I guess the question is which flavor of risk you prefer.