Astros reportedly interested in Masahiro Tanaka

Koji Watanabe

The Astros are in need of a serious rotation upgrade, and they have their eyes set on a pitcher who is widely regarded as the best available option.

The Houston Astros have inquired into prized free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, according to Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle.

For more on the Astros, head over to The Crawfish Boxes

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow didn't directly address the team's interest in the Japanese right-hander, but did offer some commentary to Ortiz regarding the situation:

"We did our homework and we acted in the best interest of our organization."

Whether or not that means the Astros are truly in the mix for Tanaka remains to be seen, but as Ortiz notes, the team did bid $60 million for the services of another highly sought-after international free-agent, Jose Dariel Abreu, earlier this offseason. Houston's payroll is expected to increase by nearly $10 million over their Opening Day mark from last season, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, and it doesn't appear the team is shy about adding a few more dollars onto that number.

The Astros' pitching staff ranked dead last in MLB with a 4.79 ERA in 2013. Their starters were slightly better, registering a 4.72 ERA, but that figure was still third-worst in the league.

Tanaka, 25, posted a 2.30 ERA in seven seasons in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league and is coming off a season in which he went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA.

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