Masahiro Tanaka rumors: Dodgers have contacted agent

Koji Watanabe

The Japanese ace is "in the feeling out process."

The Dodgers have spoken with Masahiro Tanaka's agent about bringing him to Los Angeles, as Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times reports.

Tanaka's agent, Casey Close, has until Jan. 24 to work out a deal with what is becoming a long list of interested teams. The Mariners have been called the "favorites," the Diamondbacks have been called "serious suitors," and any time the Yankees are involved they have to be considered a threat to make a splash. Several other teams have been linked to Tanaka as well. Both Chicago clubs are expected to join the competition, and the Athletics and Royals are considered dark horses in the bidding.

Needless to say, Tanaka and Close are in a "very preliminary phase" of the process.

Since the Dodgers are still in the running, they have to be considered one of the frontrunners. They have a seemingly endless revenue stream to dip into, and they haven't been hesitant to do so. Tanaka is reportedly seeking $17 million or more per season, and the bidding process will likely result in offers of six to seven years in length.

In an effort to reinforce the back end of their rotation, Los Angeles signed Dan Haren to a one-year, $10 million deal. They also have Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley coming back from injuries, though neither is expected to be ready for opening day. With Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Haren holding down four of the rotation spots, a fifth starting pitcher as good as Tanaka is expected to be would make the Dodgers rotation one of the best in baseball -- if it isn't already.

Tanaka, 25, has easily been the best pitcher in the Nippon League since Yu Darvish left for the Rangers. He's gone 99-35 in his NPB career with a 2.30 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP in 170 starts for the Rakuten Golden Eagles since joining the club in 2007 at age 18.

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