Masahiro Tanaka has just three days left until he must agree to a contract with a major league team or pitch in Japan for one more season. Jan. 24 at 4 p.m. Until then, baseball remains at a standstill.
Everyone is waiting to see what happens with Tanaka before they make their own moves. Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Bronson Arroyo are waiting to see what the pitching market will be when the Tanaka-bomb drops. There have been no major moves since Tanaka was officially posted.
The star Japanese pitcher is supposed to be the next big thing. He's 25 years old and put up video game numbers with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. He's also about to get paid very handsomely -- Tanaka has received offers for over $100 million from at least five teams already. Many teams have been pursuing him. Here is where they stand at the moment:
Yanks land Tanaka
Yanks land Tanaka
Yankees: New York and general manager Brian Cashman have seemingly been fixated on Tanaka all winter long. Even when they were out signing Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, one got the sense that their offseason plan centered on bringing in the Japanese star. That makes sense, too. Right now, the Yankees have three sure starters in CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova. That leaves two empty spots, which is unacceptable for a team that should contend. According to the New York Times, there has been talk that the Yankees refuse to be outbid for Tanaka. Keep that phrase in mind, because it's going to come up again.
Cubs: Chicago has been rumored to be in the running for Tanaka since the beginning. The team has an outstanding farm system, but it's one that is short on pitching. They have a talented crop of young hitters that will perhaps be ready soon, and need pitching as a supplement. Given Tanaka's relative youth, he should still be productive when the Cubs are ready to contend. The team has been frugal on the free agent market since Theo Epstein came to town, but with the rebuilding process nearing it's completion and a new TV deal on its way, the Cubs can spend. In fact, the team reportedly refuses to be outbid on Tanaka.
Dodgers: Even after signing Clayton Kershaw to a massive $210 million deal, the Dodgers believe they can still afford to splurge on Tanaka. However, their interest in him has appeared to fluctuate. At first they seemed reluctant to enter a bidding war. Then they became the favorite to sign him. Now the Dodgers are reportedly third in the running behind New York and Chicago. The team seemingly doesn't have a cap to how much it can spend right now. In short, if the Dodgers want Tanaka, they can afford him. Nevertheless, they already have a top-of-the-line rotation, and may choose to take a pass on a player who has never pitched professionally in America. General manager Ned Colletti reportedly talks to Tanaka's representatives nearly every day. The Dodgers may or may not be willing to outbid everyone for Tanaka.
Still in it
Diamondbacks: Arizona reportedly offered Tanaka somewhere between $106 million and $120 million depending on the report, so their interest certainly can not be downplayed. The team already has a solid rotation, but it's one that is lacking in high-upside players. In a division where they have to compete against the Dodgers, the Diamondback might need a big move to keep up as they seek a return to the playoffs. A Tanaka contract would be far and away the largest in Diamondbacks history. The current record is the five-year, $60 million deal signed by catcher Miguel Montero.
White Sox: Like the Diamondbacks, the White Sox have also reportedly made a strong offer for Tanaka and are set to remain in the process until a decision is made. They have already spent big once on an international free agent, bringing in Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu. The team had a record-high payroll of $128 million in 2011, and looks to have an opening day payroll of around $90 million in 2014, according to Cots Contracts. With more money coming off the books in subsequent years, they can afford to sign Tanaka. The question is, how bad do they want him?
Mariners: The Mariners were considered the favorites to sign Tanaka when he was first posted. Since then, there has been nothing out of Seattle -- no rumors, no known offers, nothing. There have been hints that they may be out of money after the Cano contract, or that they'd rather sign someone else. Tanaka sounds like he isn't particularly fond of Seattle. Still, the Mariners can't be ruled out without concrete evidence that they are finished spending.
Astros: Houston has had discussions with Tanaka's representatives, but the organization remains an enigma. Ownership said it would ramp up payroll this offseason, but would it go that far? However, if the Astros are looking to make a huge splash, they would seemingly have to pay much more than any other team. Tanaka would reportedly like to play in New York, Los Angeles or Boston. Moreover, he wants to sign with a winning team. Houston likely isn't a desirable landing spot for him, if that's the case.
Rangers: Texas was another team with conflicting reports about how interested it is. They struck gold when they signed Yu Darvish out of Japan, but with a monster deal given to Shin-Soo Choo already this offseason, there are questions as to whether they can afford Tanaka. As it turns out, it doesn't appear they'll make a strong effort.
Angels: Did not meet with Tanaka when he was in Los Angeles, and look like they are content trying to trim payroll from the roster rather than add on another huge, risky deal. The team itself has said it will not be making a strong effort to sign him.
Red Sox: There had been conflicting reports on the Red Sox. At first they appeared not to have an interest, but a week ago their were reports that they were still involved. Long deals to free agent pitchers are not Boston's style in a post-Lackey world, however. The Red Sox will likely use their money to extend Jon Lester.
Blue Jays: While it did take an initial look at Tanaka, Toronto does not appear willing to dive into heavy bidding. The Blue Jays will instead focus more on signing a free agent like Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez.