Masahiro Tanaka rumors: Dodgers could be 'major players' for Japanese pitcher

Koji Watanabe

Tanaka has been highly heralded, with at least one scout calling him better than Yu Darvish.

The Los Angeles Dodgers scouted star Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka three days ago and could become "major players" for him, reports Marx Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles.

One of the best players available on the open market this season, Tanaka would help round out a Dodgers' team that already spent big on a foreign player once this offseason. Not a week removed from an NLCS loss, Los Angeles signed Cuban infielder Alex Guerrero to a four year deal worth $28 million.

Tanaka, 24, would receive a substantially larger deal. Most believe he is a better player than Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu, who received a $68 million contract with the White SoxAt least one scout says Tanaka is better than Rangers' starter Yu Darvish, whom the Rangers paid over $111 million to acquire.

The Dodgers would be set in the rotation with a signing of Tanaka. Their top four of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco is already one of the more intimidating pitching staffs in the MLB. Adding Tanaka would ratchet that up another level.

Tanaka has had an ERA under 2.00 each of the last three seasons with Rakuten in the Japanese league. In 2013, he made 23 starts and posted a 1.24 ERA and 0.93 WHIP while striking out 155 batters. A team hoping to sign him will first have to pay a posting fee, though the posting deal between the MLB and Japan has currently expired.

Among the Dodgers and others, the Rangers and Yankees are also said to have very strong interest in Tanaka.

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