Dodgers "very much aware" of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka

Koji Watanabe

Tanaka would help shore up the back end of the Dodgers rotation, where two holes need to be filled.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are expected to be a top candidate to sign Masahiro Tanaka as the team has shown open interest in the Japanese superstar pitcher, reports the Los Angeles Times.

"We've scouted him a lot, we're very much aware of him," general manager Ned Colletti told reporters. "We saw him as recently as two days ago."

Los Angeles has three members of their starting rotation in Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu. However with Ricky Nolasco and Chris Capuano becoming free agents this offseason, the team needs to fill out the rest of their staff.

Tanaka could be the best possible solution for the Dodgers and could potentially give the team four ace pitchers. Tanaka, 24, absolutely dominated the Japanese league while pitching for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. In 2013, he made 27 starts and one relief appearance, posting a 1.27 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. He has had a sub-2.00 ERA each of the last three years and a sub-3.00 ERA each of the last five.

Some scouts have compared Tanaka favorably to Rangers ace pitcher Yu Darvish. Though Darvish puts up bigger strikeout numbers, Tanaka has an outstanding splitter and the ability to reach the upper 90s with his fastball. He also is said by some to have better command of his pitches than Darvish.

The Dodgers have spent big on international free agents in the past with Ryu, Yasiel Puig, and Alex Guerrero all coming in on big contracts.

Los Angeles's biggest opposition for Tanaka figures to be the Yankees and Cubs, both of whom have prioritized signing the star pitcher.

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