The Crowd Speaks: Masahiro Tanaka’s Contract

A few hours ago, I put up a crowdsourcing form for you guys to project what Masahiro Tanaka will sign for in the next few weeks. Now that we’re up to about 700 entries, I’d say our sample is large enough to post the results.

First, some graphs, because the word is in our name.



No huge surprises here, as pretty much everyone came in at six or seven years and $17M to $22M in annual average value. Because of Major League Baseball’s service time rules, nearly every big league ready international free agent signs a six year contract, as the player is going to be under team control for at least six years regardless of the length of the deal, so the player’s goal is to essentially maximize the number of guaranteed years.

Any years within the first six that don’t get covered by the original deal essentially turn into team options, as the player would qualify for arbitration if he was good and the team could non-tender him if he was not, so there’s not a lot of motivation for the player to accept shorter term deals. Yoenis Cespedes is the one exception, as he got the A’s to waive the final two years of team control in exchange for only signing a four year contract, but it’s hard to imagine Tanaka going that route, given pitcher injury rates. Six or seven years seems like a very safe bet.

The salary is a little bit more spread out, but by and large, everyone is still in a pretty tight range. Every value between $17-$22M got at least 9.7% of the vote, but no number outside of that range got more than 3.7%. And because it’s a round number, $20 million got the most votes. People love round numbers.

So, the final tally:

Average years: 6.3
Average AAV: $19.7M
Median years: 6
Median AAV: $20M
Average Total: $124M
Median Total: $120M

Six years, $120 million or so. That’s what you guys think Tanaka is going to sign for. That’s what I’m guessing too, though I won’t be too shocked if it’s ends up a bit higher than that. I would pretty surprised if it was much lower. As a general rule, the crowd has been consistently too low on large contracts; missing on Cano by two years, missing on Ellsbury by one year and $3M in AAV, missing on Choo by two years and $3 million in AAV, and missing on McCann by one year and $2M in AAV. If this estimate follows the trend of previous forecasts for big contracts, maybe a more realistic projection would be 7/$154, or almost exactly equal to the Ellsbury contract. Toss in the $20 million posting fee, and that would put him at $7/$174M, or $1M shy of the extension signed by Felix Hernandez.

Either way, Tanaka is about to become a very rich man.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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