The chase for Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka got underway yesterday with news that the New York Yankees have already made contract with his agent Casey Close. All 30 teams were notified that Tanaka was available to talk to and the deadline to sign the 25-year-old starter is January 24 at 5 PM EST.
Other teams that are known to have interest are the Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks and possibly Texas Rangers. Talking to Mike Puma of the New York Post, former major league and Japanese league manager Bobby Valentine weighed in on where Tanaka should sign:
Valentine also told me Tanaka should pitch in NL, on the west coast, where weather won't be a factor. … Hmm. Wonder which team he means.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) December 27, 2013
From 2004-2009 Valentine managed in Japan for the Chiba Lotte Marines of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and was a spectator for many of Tanaka’s starts. He also mentioned that he has the best split-fingered fastball in the world while also comparing him to Miami Marlins NL Rookie of the Year winner Jose Fernandez.
From what Valentine is saying, it sounds like he’s indicating the Dodgers, possibly the Diamondbacks and if the Giants or Padres decided to get into the bidding as potential fits. Tanaka is reportedly the Diamondbacks number one priority while the Giants have said several times that their rotation is set and don’t intend to sign him.
Of all the interested teams, the Dodgers look to be the biggest wild card. Signing Tanaka fits the international signing profile and would give them a top three of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Tanaka. However, contract extensions loom for Kershaw and Hanley Ramirez while some speculate they might not want to add another $100 million contract.
It’ll be interesting if the reports about Tanaka wanting to pitch on the West Coast come to fruition as the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Mariners would be in a good position to sign him.
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