Final Odds for Top Masahiro Tanaka Suitors in Final Week Before Deadline
Masahiro Tanaka has a lot of options.
The former ace for the Rakuten Golden Eagles has received at least five offers, according to a report from Nikkan Sports (via Adam Steen of MLB Trade Rumors). The teams that have launched bids are the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
While all of those teams have been heavily linked to Tanaka throughout the offseason, the Seattle Mariners are noticeably absent from the list.
For Tanaka, time is running short. The pitcher must make his final decision by Friday at 5 p.m. ET.
Even with the clock ticking, there are still plenty of questions as to just what exactly Tanaka is looking for in his new employer.
David Waldstein of the New York Times reported that Tanaka's wife, pop star Mai Satoda, "prefers to be on the West Coast." However, Waldstein also added that preference is "a goal, not a mandate." Jim Allen of Kyodo News remarked via Twitter that Tanaka's final decision "might surprise people."
With those considerations in mind, it's time to set the final odds for the top suitors.
A move for Tanaka sure would make a lot of sense for the Mariners from a baseball perspective.
After locking up Robinson Cano on a 10-year, $240 million deal, the Mariners still need to make one big splash to complete the team's rise back into contention in the American League West.
With Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma already headlining the rotation and top prospect Taijuan Walker in the mix as well, the signing of Tanaka would immediately make the Seattle pitching staff one of the best in baseball.
On the surface, geography should also be in the club's favor, although the Pacific Northwest might not be at the top of the list for Tanaka's wife, according to Greg Johns of MLB.com: "There is speculation among some Japanese journalists that I've spoken with that she might prefer going to a large-market city in the U.S."
After a lot of early buzz, the rumors of Tanaka to the Mariners have certainly quieted down. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports notes that they still have "interest" but "financial constraints" as well. Most importantly, they were not among the five reported teams to make an official offer for Tanaka.
Considering the club's rich history with Japanese players, though, the Mariners simply can't be ruled out until the chase is over.
Chicago White Sox
According to Dan Martin and Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, the White Sox were among the teams that met with Tanaka and his agent, Casey Close, in Los Angeles.
After that meeting, the team's executive vice president, Kenny Williams, told Chuck Garfien of CSN Chicago that he thinks for the Japanese right-hander, the "biggest" factor won't be money, but a matter of "Who's the right fit?"
From the club's perspective, Tanaka would certainly be an ideal fit.
The White Sox are making a concerted effort to add youth to the roster, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
However, a move for Tanaka would also entail serious risk for the White Sox, who have already splashed out $68 million to Jose Abreu. Like Tanaka, Abreu is proven on the international scene but has never actually played in a big league game.
Handing out roughly $200 million in contracts in a single offseason to a pair of players with zero MLB experience would be a major gamble.
The Diamondbacks are prepared to offer Tanaka what would be by far the most lucrative contract that the club has ever dished out to a player.
According to Jack Magruder of Fox Sports Arizona, the Diamondbacks offer is for "roughly $106 million." Meanwhile, Alex Williams of ArizonaSports.com reports that the proposed deal is worth "a little more than $115 million."
Either figure would smash the current record, which was set with Miguel Montero's five-year, $60 million extension. Spending such a large sum on Tanaka could also result in the Diamondbacks setting a new record for the highest payroll in team history.
As Magruder observes, signing him would likely push the team's payroll past the current high of $103 million set in 2002.
There's no doubt that the Cubs are major contenders in the pursuit for Tanaka.
Tom Loxas of ChicagoNow.com shed some light on just how substantial that offer could be: "The industry buzz places the Cubs offer in the neighborhood of $160 million for 7 years. That offer does not include the $20 million posting fee."
That would represent a remarkably generous offer from the Cubs. And it would appear to be excessively large based on the rest of the proposals he has received.
New York Yankees
While the Yankees have done an impressive job of stockpiling offensive talent this offseason, the team's starting staff is clearly still short an arm or two.
The addition of Tanaka would go a long way in solidifying a rotation that is currently anchored by CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova.
As one AL executive pointed out to Dan Martin of the New York Post, failing to land an ace this offseason would be a big disappointment: "If you don't get Tanaka, it kind of nullifies some of what you've added to the offense. Anything is possible, but I'm sure they don't want to lose [Tanaka]."
Ken Davidoff of the NY Post reports that managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and an "industry source" both described the Yankees' offer for Tanaka as "highly aggressive."
With such fierce competition for the pitcher, though, it's still far from a sure thing that Tanaka will be pitching in the Bronx in 2014.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Despite shelling out a record $215 million contract to Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers are still very much in on Tanaka.
Team president Stan Katsen explained to Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register: "Nothing precludes anything else. Everything has to be evaluated independently." Katsen's comment makes it clear that money won't be an issue for the Dodgers in the pursuit for Tanaka.
Los Angeles would also appear to be an ideal base camp for Tanaka and his wife, who was described as an "entertainment idol" by Jonathan Lehman of the NY Post.
Plus, there's the consideration that when Tanaka traveled to the U.S., he met with potential suitors in Los Angeles rather than embarking on a mini-tour. However, it's possible that too much shouldn't be read into that decision.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports remarked, "A Dodgers person suggested they don't necessarily take extra confidence from Tanaka's choice to meet teams in LA."
Still, with seemingly limitless funds and the perfect location, the Dodgers remain the favorites to land the talented right-hander.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.