Masahiro Tanaka: Mariners' money, need make them favorites

Koji Watanabe

No one expected them to sign Cano...

The Seattle Mariners are considered the frontrunners for Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark. Other interested clubs have the M's pegged as a serious threat to land the market's best remaining pitcher. Rival executives have said they believe the club has "one more big move left" this offseason.

This might end up being the most eventful offseason in Seattle Mariners' history. They have already lured Robinson Cano away from the richest team in league history with one of the most lucrative contracts ever. They were the shadowy subject of a caustic exposé in the local newspaper that exploded onto the national scene. And now, they might hand out the biggest international contract ever.

In addition to Stark's report, Baseball America's Ben Badler has listed the M's as the team most likely to land Tanaka:

"Other teams have the need for Tanaka and the finances to make it happen. But no team blends it all quite as strongly as the Mariners."

A starting rotation featuring Tanaka, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Taijuan Walker with a lineup now anchored by one of the best hitters in the game could vault the Mariners into serious contention for the first time in several years.

Tanaka is likely to command a contract of over $100 million, and the Mariners would also have to pay the $20 million posting fee to Rakuten if they come to an agreement with the 25-year-old right hander. However, Tanaka is widely considered to be the best pitcher on the open market, so if the M's plan on strengthening their core around Cano, Tanaka might be their best option.

There is some concern that his workload in Japan will cause him to decline quickly as he ages, but the results he put up in the Nippon League speak for themselves. He went 99-35 in in over 1,300 innings for Rakuten, posting a career 2.30 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP.

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