The next Yu Darvish?

Masahiro Tanaka is next in line for a big investment from an MLB club

Updated: March 7, 2013, 10:42 AM ET
By C.J. Nitkowski | Special to ESPN Insider
TanakaKoji Watanabe/Getty ImagesWith a weak free-agent class, Masahiro Tanaka could be the hottest name on the market next winter.

If the World Baseball Classic has created a legacy in its brief history, it's this: The event is a steppingstone for right-handed aces from Japan.

In 2006, it was Daisuke Matsuzaka, the inaugural WBC MVP who would become the Boston Red Sox's $103 million investment the following offseason. In 2009, Yu Darvish turned the heads of MLB scouts, striking out 20 in 13 WBC innings. The Texas Rangers nabbed him two years later, for a total package of $111.7 million.

The name to know at the 2013 WBC, the one all MLB scouts and execs are watching, is right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. The 24-year-old, who is affectionately known as Ma-Kun, showed why Wednesday morning when he fanned six Cuban hitters in two innings of relief, and he is likely to become the next Japanese import to top the $100 million investment mark (posting fee plus contract). Tanaka comes with gaudy credentials, and while you have to take foreign statistics with a grain of salt, his history and stuff are impossible to ignore.


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