Mets Japan Rotation Plan
Realistically speaking, due to notes depth issues, the New York Mets will need to sign at least two more starting pitchers, perhaps three. There are plenty of options available, but perhaps, the Mets best plan is to look to Japan.
In terms of MLB pitching free agents, one of the most prominent names available is Masahiro Tanaka. For many reasons, a Tanaka and the Mets make a lot of sense.
For Tanaka, joining the Mets would mean not completely uprooting his life because he can stay in New York. Additionally, with the Mets having Seth Lugo, he’s be joining an organization who knows how to manage a pitcher with a torn UCL.
For the Mets, Tanaka makes sense as well. Tanaka is a pitcher who has shown he can handle New York. Also, for a team with World Series aspirations, Tanaka has real postseason mettle.
In terms of ability, Tanaka is a strong three or four starter right now. Since tearing his UCL, he’s been a 111 ERA+ and a 4.04 FIP pitcher with a 1.8 BB/9 and an 8.3 K/9. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 5.2 innings per start.
You don’t want to go too long on a contract with him. He does have that torn UCL, and he is 32. According to Baseball Savant, his velocity and spin was well below league average.
That said, he again had exceptional control and generated a number of swings and misses. All told, this is someone who knows how to pitch, is an acceptable third starter, and as a fourth starter is about as good an option as there is.
Depending on how you structure your offseason, Tanaka could serve another role too.
The Yomiuri Giants have posted ace Tomoyuki Sugano. As noted by MLB Trade Rumors, the 31 year old is “a six-time All-Star in Japan and a two-time winner of NPB’s Sawamura Award — their league’s equivalent of MLB’s Cy Young Award.”
Sugano impressed in the last World Baseball Classic, and it’s expected he could be a fourth starter. That could work well for the Mets.
If not Sugano, the Mets could pursue the 28 year old Kohei Arihara. Arihara arguably has better better league stuff than Sugano with a mid 90s fastball. As noted by Sports Info Solutions, Arihara not only has a strikeout pitch with his splitter, but he also “uses a low-80s slider against right-handed batters and mixes in a cutter, changeup and curveball against lefties.”
Overall, Arihara’s repertoire sounds similar to Tanaka’s. This would give Arihara someone to talk to in order to see the adjustments he needs to make from Japan and how to better utilize his arsenal against MLB hitters.
Of course, Tanaka could serve that role as well for Sugano. Depending on what the Cubs would want for Yu Darvish, the Mets could look to pair one of Tanaka, Sugano, or Arihara with him.
The point is there are successful Japanese born pitchers who are thriving in MLB. They have insight on how to help one of the posted Japanese pitchers adapt and thrive here as well.
By adding two starters, the Mets will significantly improve their rotation. There’s another added benefit as well.
Having two Japanese starters would give the Mets in-roads in marketing in Japan. During the time of COVID19 and with the Wilpons leaving the books the way they did, the Mets should be looking for every possible revenue source.
In the end, adding two Japanese starters would make a lot sense for the Mets. It improves the team, and it could also increase revenues permitting them to be able to find more money to spend at the trade deadline or in the ensuing offseason.