The sweepstakes for Masahiro Tanaka appear to have an end in sight, but the likely candidate list is still wide open.
According to Jason Stark of ESPN, Tanaka is expected to wait until Friday, Jan. 24, before ultimately making the decision as to where he will sign:
Now hearing Tanaka decision could go all the way till Friday. Clubs not in bidding hearing rumblings he took physical while in LA this month— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) January 21, 2014
The Japanese ace has been the most coveted starting pitcher in the offseason with his price tag likely to rise above the $100 million mark.
In fact, Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the number could be even higher:
Industry source suggests Tanaka price tag to hit $140M. Reinsdorf's absence at meeting suggested warm, not hot #whitesox interest— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) January 14, 2014
Apart from the rumors, what is known is that Tanaka has been in discussions with several teams about joining their clubs.
Which team will ultimately win the race for the ace is still unknown, but he will be back stateside soon.
Jon Morosi of Fox Sports claims that Tanaka will be returning to the states to complete a physical with the team of his choosing:
Masahiro Tanaka expected to return to U.S. this week for physical with the team that signs him. Needs to be soon with Friday deadline.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 21, 2014
Thus far, the Tanaka rumors are just that. Nothing concrete has been reported about the Japanese pitcher's interest with each team. In fact, confusion has actually ensued over what Tanaka wants out of the club he signs with.
Does Tanaka want to join a team with another Japanese star like the New York Yankees?
Or would he rather be the only one on the team like Yu Darvish for the Texas Rangers? Would the Japanese ace want to assume that role for a team like the Chicago Cubs? Or is he more interested in easing into an already established pitching staff like the Los Angeles Dodgers?
Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM in Chicago reported one crucial piece to the Tanaka puzzle that could limit his decision to a specific city rather than the team itself:
Tanaka has told teams that a part of his decision will be based on the Japanese culture available to him and his wife .— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) January 19, 2014
Though his decision still seems up in the air, teams appear to be coming out of the woodwork to sign him.
Chris Cotillo of the MLB Daily Dish reports that even the Seattle Mariners could be a surprise team when everything is said and done:
So, one agent believes that the #Mariners are a team to watch in the Tanaka talks. He described the Ms as the "mystery team".— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) January 21, 2014
Then there's the fact that none, literally not one, of the top contenders will be outbid for Tanaka.
David Waldstein of The New York Times is reporting the Yankees won't be outbid.
Tadd Haislop of the Sporting News claims the Dodgers won't give up on talks with Tanaka—which came before the signing of Clayton Kershaw.
Take a wild guess at what Levine is reporting about the Chicago Cubs on Twitter:
Industry sources believe the Cubs will outbid the field on money and years. None of the clubs know other teams bids.— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) January 20, 2014
Which team will sign Tanaka?
OK, one team has to outbid the others. That's just math, people.
But with the talks heating up even more about the Japanese sensation, it still appears that there are several teams with a high amount interest. With the Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros and Mariners in discussions for Tanaka as well, the price could end up being astronomical.
Friday's deadline is looming, though, and the only thing baseball agents, executives and fans know for sure is that Tanaka will be making his decision by the end of this week.
May the odds be ever in your favorite team's favor.