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What If The Giants Had A Happy Tanaka Day?

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We should learn any day, any hour now, whether the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, which play their home games at Kleenex Miyagi Stadium, will post their young ace Masahiro Tanaka and allow him to pursue besu-baru in the major leagues. If he's posted, it's going to be a freaking circus.

According to the new agreement between MLB and the Japanese leagues, MLB teams can bid up to $20 million for the right to negotiate with the posted player. And oh, will they. No doubt several teams will offer the full $20 million, which comes out of most owners' nostrils every time they sneeze (any bets that all 30 teams sign up?). Tanaka should have an exultation of outrageous offers to choose from. (Just as it was under the old system, only the team that signs the player would pay the rights fee to the player's Japanese team.)

The Giants have a full rotation, and until this week, they've made it clear they would steer clear of the Tanaka frenzy. But here's one reason they should go for it.

If the Giants successfully bid for Tanaka they will take a big payroll hit, but it will give them the flexibility to do something they urgently need: Trade for young position players. And with Tanaka on board, I'm specifically talking about trading Madison Bumgarner for young talent. (Matt Cain would be tempting, too, but the contract would make him harder to move for a huge package of prospects.) Would this be a popular move? <ducks to avoid burning chair, only to be covered in boiling oil> Nope. Would this be a risky move? Yep.

But the Giants have a grand total of zero blue-chip position prospects in their high minors. Hell, in their middle minors, too. Their best hitter/fielder prospect could be just-drafted Christian Arroyo, who began shaving, graduated from high school, and tore up the Arizona Rookie League, all in a few months' time. Mac Williamson has some promise, Joe Panik seems like he could be a useful middle infielder, Andrew Susac might have nice bat skills for a catcher, Adam Duvall has a chance to be a right-handed power bat off the bench. That about sums it up. There's no one coming soon who's "can't miss," or even "might miss, but boy we're excited to see what happens."

The young pitching is another story, of course. Some pundits say lefty Edwin Escobar could be ready to help out in the rotation by mid-2014, with other starters to follow in 2015. So why not just trade young pitching for young hitting and skip all the Tanaka/Bumgarner shenanigans? Because Bumgarner -- just reaching his prime, eminently cost controlled through 2019, strong as a horse Madison Bumgarner -- could bring back a mother lode. Lode to your mother. Perhaps I'm way off, but how about two MLB-ready or near-ready talents, plus another enticing prospect or two? The Cardinals don't need a 24-year-old ace, but let's say they did. Would they part with Oscar Tavares, Kolten Wong, and either Carlos Martinez or a couple guys in Double A whom Giants scouts have pinpointed? Too much? Too little? Before you answer, remember that Bumgarner's current contract calls for $55 million in salary, give or take a few mil, the next six years. How much per year did Scott Feldman just sign for?

Two young would-be stars would have to headline the kind of package I'm talking about, plus a little more for depth. The Giants would instantly have premium position talent to go with their premium pitching talent. Pay for Tanaka now, don't pay $100 million for Pablo Sandoval or an expensive outfielder in 2015 and beyond.

The Giants had a nice run of homegrown players in Sandoval, Posey, Belt and Crawford (and don't forget the Tommy Joseph/Schierholtz combination returned Hunter Pence). If there's another way to refresh the top of the pipeline for position players, I'm all for it. I would hate to trade Bumgarner, of course, but the bucket's barely reaching the well water again. All those minor league pitchers are sure nice to have, but it feels like the Giants need to restock the other side of the fence. Shocking everyone in the Tanaka sweepstakes would give them the wiggle room to do so.

The Giants would keep Tanaka away from the Dodgers, too, which might be reason enough to do it alone, stop right there, and just roll into 2014 with a Cain/Bumgarner/Tanaka/Hudson/Lincecum rotation. It would be so expensive, however, the Giants might roll into a 2015 Opening Day lineup with Joe Panik at second base, Nick Noonan at third, and Gary Brown in left field. But at least Opening Day 2014 would be sweet. 

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