Superstar free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka kicked off his free agency in earnest with clandestine meetings Wednesday and will see as many as a dozen or so teams by Friday in the Los Angeles area. The Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox, Yankees and Diamondbacks are believed to be among teams to have already met or at least have meetings planned.
Tanaka, who is expected to receive in excess of $100 million, and perhaps well in excess of that figure, is scheduled to be seen by a Los Angeles doctor while there in order to provide a medical status to all the interested teams.
There was no official word from any of the teams said to have meetings planned, as it appears this is being taken as a heavily guarded secret. The Angels were originally believed to be on the meeting list, but a source denied that they were.
The Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees and Diamondbacks have long been known to have a keen interest in the 25-year-old righthander who went a magical 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for Rakuten, and earned virtual free agency via a revamped posting system that only will require the winning team to give $20 million to Rakuten, far short of what the Japanese teams received for previous Japanese pitching stars Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish.
The Jays are among several others teams to have had multiple discussions with team Tanaka, but there was no word they had a meeting planned as of yet. Other teams reported to have some interest have included the Angels, Mariners, Twins and Rangers. It isn't known which other teams have a meeting planned besides the two Los Angeles teams, the two Chicago teams, the Yankees and Diamondbacks.
It is believed Tanaka, with agent Casey Close there, may have as many as five or six meetings planned per day, and the meetings are definitely continuing today.
The Yankees along with the Dodgers are the richest teams and in the best financial position to win the pitcher, but New York's case is complicated a bit by its desire to stay under the $189-million luxury-tax threshold. Should the Yankees sign Tanaka, they may have to offload a few other contracts to have any chance to get under the $189-million mark, though their desire for the player may ultimately cost them the ability to do so -- especially if Alex Rodriguez receives a favorable ruling from baseball's arbitrator and doesn't have to sit out the entire 2014 season in the Biogenesis/PED case.
Teams love the fact that Tanaka is only 25 (he just turned 25) but the one question is the heavy workload he's had early -- a question that could be alleviated to some degree with the medical exam.
Scouts marvel at Tanaka's exceptional poise and mound presence, and though most suggest Darvish may be more talented, others aren't so sure. Said one GM, whose team isn't even believed to be involved, “Tanaka's the better pitcher.”