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Phil Rogers

Rogers Inbox: Do White Sox have shot at Tanaka?

MLB.com columnist answers fans' queries on Japanese star, replay and more

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MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

CHICAGO -- It's great to see baseball creating a buzz around Chicago, thanks to new Hall of Famers Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux. But what about the poor fans in Detroit?

You've got some questions for me, and I'll happily get to them in a minute. But first, I want to ask you one: Why hasn't there been more discussion, maybe even a little angst, about the lack of respect that Alan Trammell receives from Hall of Fame voters?

I'm bummed that Jack Morris didn't get elected to the Hall. I voted for him for 15 years. But at least Morris gets the distinction of having gotten the highest percentage (67.7 last year) of any player to fall off the ballot. Trammell, who fell to 20.8 percent in the latest voting, might have peaked at 36.8 percent in 2012.

How is this possible? Based on watching him play for the Tigers, and also how he elevated his game when he got a chance to play in the postseason, I've voted for Trammell every year he's been on the ballot. But as time has gone on, and as Trammell's vote totals have started going downward, I've become even more convinced he should be a Hall of Famer.

Ozzie Smith was a first-ballot guy, and it seems a safe assumption that Derek Jeter will be when he gets on the ballot. Barry Larkin needed three years to get elected. But were any of those three that much better than Trammell?

Using the WAR numbers from baseball-reference.com, Trammell was at 70.3, a tick better than Larkin (70.2) and well within the ballpark of Smith (76.5) and Jeter (71.6). The surprising part, however, is that Trammell comes out as the most valuable of these shortstops at his peak.

Trammell produced 44.5 WAR in his best seven seasons. Larkin's best seven added up to 43.1, with Smith at 42.3 and Jeter at 42.2. So why the lack of love? Don't ask me. But everything else is fair game. Here goes:

Do you think the White Sox have a realistic shot at Masahiro Tanaka or are they just in it to be in it?
-- Brian M., Chicago

It's hard to imagine the White Sox outbidding the Yankees and Dodgers to get Tanaka. But the White Sox have a history of striking when you don't expect them to, and general manager Rick Hahn is quite creative, so I don't think they're just trying to grab attention. I think they see Tanaka like Jose Abreu -- a potential difference-maker who can make them a playoff team in a hurry -- and understand that Tanaka can generate revenue to help pay his eventual contract.

Do you think Trevor Hoffman is a first-ballot Hall of Famer? Does Mike Piazza get in next year?
-- Dennis G., Arlington, Va.

I'm gonna say no and no, but I do think Piazza will have a real good shot to get in two years from now, which will be Hoffman's first year on the ballot. Craig Biggio should be able to pick up the two votes he needs next year, but it will be another deep class of first-timers, which works against Piazza.

It speaks volumes about the standing of Biggio and Piazza that they gained votes this year, when Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Curt Schilling and so many others lost votes. Lee Smith somehow went down 101 votes! Hoffman was a great closer, but I'm not sure how deep of a footprint he left in the landscape.

How does Hahn fill his need at catcher, and who are the long-term middle-infield options for the White Sox?
-- Chris M., Chicago

Great question, Chris, because I think ideally they work together. That is, Hahn trades Alexei Ramirez or Gordon Beckham with a catcher coming back in the package.

The Yankees seem a realistic possibility, as they have catching prospects Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez (a supposed untouchable) and J.R. Murphy lined up behind Brian McCann and no real heir apparent to Jeter or Robinson Cano.

The most interesting current internal option for the White Sox is Josh Phegley, but he was overmatched against big league pitching.

What are the major factors in the Tanaka decision, if any, besides salary and years?
-- Garrett G., Lisle, Ill.

I think there are definite considerations beyond those. This could be a case where the free agent turns down the biggest offer, with concerns about lifestyle and the storyline of a franchise being a factor.

Tanaka's team in Japan, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, was a Cinderella story, and he might want to recreate that in the Major Leagues. Friendship could draw him to the Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma was his teammate/mentor for five years) or Rangers (a chance to share the stage with Yu Darvish).

Maybe a team like the White Sox can induce him with a shorter offer, like the A's did with Yoenis Cespedes, who took four years from Oakland when the Cubs declined to offer him fewer than six years. What if someone signed Tanaka for three years and he got a chance to re-enter free agency or return to Japan when he is only 28, without any posting requirements?

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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