The Red Sox, based on some reports, are close to signing Junichi Tazawa of Japan. He’s a 22-year-old Japanese amateur player who has a chance to be pretty good depending on the scout you ask. Others think he doesn’t throw hard enough.
But whether Tazawa is any good or not isn’t the point. The point is that he is an amateur player and by signing him, the Red Sox would break a decades-old informal agreement between the Major Leagues and the Japanese leagues not to pilfer amateur players from each other’s country.
For the Japanese, this is a huge potential problem. If they can’t keep their best players in the Pacific and Central Leagues for at least a few years, the quality of their baseball will quickly diminish.
So what do you care? You’re a fan of the Yankees, not Japanese baseball. Here’s the problem: The Yankees could have five or six picks in the first 50 slots of the draft in June. What is keeping a well-financed Japanese team from sending scouts to high school or college games in the United States in May and signing top prospects? Nothing.
No, they wouldn’t get everybody. But they could make a dent in the quality of the draft. Think Scott Boras might like that option for a client who goes in the first round? That would be leverage.
Several teams scouted and are pursuing Tazawa, but the Yankees sat this one out. Brian Cashman said from the start that he would abide by the agreement, as did most teams. This is a mess for MLB, which can’t force teams like Boston to abide by rules that don’t really exist.
The solution would be to come up with an ironclad rule and perhaps that will be the legacy Tazawa leaves. But for now, there’s a hole in the system and some teams that don’t care about doing the right thing are walking through it.
As for the rest of the hot stove, it seems like everybody is waiting for CC Sabathia to make his move. Once Sabathia makes a decision, that will clarify what the Dodgers, Angels and Yankees do and the ripples go out from there. Sabathia’s decision also figures to prod A.J. Burnett into a move.
As of right now, the only known offers are from the Yankees and Brewers. Agent Greg Genske does not have any leaks in his organization, however, so nobody is quite sure where the big lefty stands. It’s a waiting game.