Masahiro Tanaka rumors: Cubs 'covet' Japanese pitcher

Koji Watanabe

Tanaka will have no lack of suitors and could be placed up for bidding shortly after the Japan Series.

Signing Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has become a top priority for the Chicago Cubs this offseason, reports Phil Rogers of MLB.com.

The Cubs have a heavy need for pitching going forward and Tanaka figures to be among the best pitchers on the market this offseason. He will also come at a hefty price as teams will first have to place a blind bid just for the chance to negotiate a contract. The Rakuten Golden Eagles are expected to post Tanaka following the Japan Series taking place this week.

Chicago will have a large contingency at Game 2 of that series, when Tanaka is scheduled to pitch. The team has a number of top positional prospects coming up through the minors, but the system doesn't have much in the way of top pitching.

Tanaka, 24, is in his seventh season with the Golden Eagles. He has had a sub-2.00 ERA each of the past three years with a 1.24 ERA and 0.93 WHIP over 23 starts in 2013. Furthermore, he has averaged nearly eight innings per start this season.

Tanaka has drawn many comparisons to fellow Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, who has played with the Rangers the past two years. While Tanaka's stuff is not quite as overwhelming as that of Darvish, some scouts say he is still the better pitcher of the two due to his abilities to command his repertoire. He also has what has been called the best splitter in the world to pair with a fastball that can reach the upper-mid 90s.

Darvish received a bid of $52 million from the Rangers before receiving a six year contract worth $56 million. The bidding for Tanaka is expected to at least match Darvish, with a good possibility of being even pricier. Other teams expected to be in the running for his services are big spenders such as the Yankees, Rangers and Red Sox.

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