The free agent that everyone was hoping would be on the market is finally available. Now the question is which team will land Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
After struggling to decide whether to make the 25-year-old pitcher available to major league clubs, the Rakuten Golden Eagles finally agreed to let him go to America, according to Sankei Sports, translated by Dylan Thomas of the Los Angeles Times:
Golden Eagles announce Tanaka will be posted, according to Sankei Sports. RT @sankeisports: イーグルス、田中将大の新ポスティング制度による移籍を容認すると発表しました。— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) December 25, 2013
The young pitcher is coming off a season in Japan where he went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA. He will now become the first big-time player to come through the new posting system, which has a maximum bid of $20 million.
La Velle E. Neal III of the Minnesota Star Tribune reports that this will lead to many teams getting involved. He writes, "At least half the teams in the league are expected to put in a bid because only one team ends up paying the $20 million - the team that signs him."
Still, only one team will end up securing the rights to Tanaka. Here are the latest rumors surrounding the battle to sign the highly touted free agent.
It has been a few years since the Chicago Cubs were relevant. They are coming off a 66-96 season, which was the second-worst mark in the National League.
They not only need to find players to improve the roster, but also ones that will generate excitement among the fanbase.
According to David Kaplan of CSN Chicago, the team will try to do that with Tanaka:
I just spoke w/an MLB source who believes Cubs will not be outbid on Tanaka. He also said convincing Tanaka to come to Chgo will be hard.— David Kaplan (@thekapman) December 24, 2013
Same source: "This is exactly type deal that Theo/Jed will be all in on. However, will Tanaka say no to Yanks/Dodgers etc? Not sure he will"— David Kaplan (@thekapman) December 24, 2013
With Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer doing the bidding, there is a strong chance that the club could offer the best contract financially. As Kaplan notes, though, it might come down to preference.
Considering Tanaka will have the chance to go to perennial contenders like the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers, it might be hard to turn it down. Still, it is clear that if the Cubs are unable to land the pitcher, it will not be for a lack of trying.
New York Yankees
The Cubs are not the only team desperate for an impact player in the rotation. The Yankees need a major upgrade in the starting rotation, and Tanaka would be the perfect fit, as reported by Marc Carig of Newsday:
According to people with knowledge of the team's thinking, Tanaka has long been an attractive target, especially with a rotation that could use an impact arm. With the retirement of Andy Pettitte, the Yankees have just three established starters in CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova.
ESPN's Jim Bowden takes it a step further, saying, "If Tanaka gets posted, there is no doubt the Yankees will bid the maximum $20 million and then outbid the market."
New York ranked 18th in the majors last season with a 4.08 starter ERA. After upgrading the offense with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, the club will now need to find a way to keep runs off the board.
Tanaka can help in this area, but the Yankees will have to spend a lot of money to complete a deal.
After signing Shin-Soo Choo to a seven-year, $130 million contract, it seems unlikely that the Rangers would be able to sign another high-priced free agent. However, they are not out of the running just yet.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! reported before the Choo deal that the club was taking the necessary steps to sign Tanaka:
Rangers doing significant background work on Masahiro Tanaka. Have room for one significant expenditure. May slow movement on Shin-Soo Choo.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 18, 2013
Meanwhile, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Rangers remain in the hunt even after the latest splurge:
While the Rangers will have to be considered extreme longshots to land Tanaka, they can’t be counted out of the picture. Club officials had indicated earlier in the winter they intended to pursue Tanaka if he was posted. Even with a $130 million obligation to Shin-Soo Choo pending a physical, the Rangers have nothing to lose by talking to Tanaka.
Grant continues by providing ways for the Rangers to free up space in payroll through various deals.
There are certainly other teams in the running to bring in the Japanese star, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and Atlanta Braves. However, none of them has shown as much interest in the pitcher as of late.
With the American League West in the midst of a spending spree of epic proportions, the Rangers must continue making moves to keep up in the division. Tanaka is an acquisition that can pay off huge dividends for the future.
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