The free-agent frenzy surrounding Masahiro Tanaka came to the United States this past week, and could very well have ended already. Multiple reports that have been passed on say that Tanaka has landed back in Japan after meeting with at least six to eight teams, including the Yankees.
According to Nikkan Sports in Japan, Tanaka met with the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, and about six other teams on January 9th for anywhere between one to two hours each. With his limited time in America, Tanaka kept his meetings with teams short and to the point.
While neither the report from Nikkan Sports or Sponichi — another notable news source in Japan — stated who from the Yankees organization was there in Los Angeles — Beverly Hills, to be more specific — to meet with Tanaka, I would have to imagine that at least general manager Brian Cashman was there, and possibly Hal Steinbrenner.
Sponichi reports that the White Sox had Executive Vice President Ken Williams, General Manager Rick Hahn, and Manager Robin Ventura on hand to meet Tanaka. White Sox Owner Jerry Reinsdorf was also in attendance. The Diamondbacks brought GM Kevin Towers and Owner Ken Kendrick who both met with Tanaka. The Cubs had Owner Tom Ricketts, President Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer, and Manager Rick Renteria in Los Angeles.
Sponichi also added that Tanaka could meet teams like the Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, and Toronto Blue Jays on the 10th (US time)/11th (Japan time).
According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea, Tanaka’s top three cities are Los Angeles, New York, and Boston. That would give the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels and Red Sox the upper-hand in any negotiations, knowing he wants to be there.
Tanaka is the best free-agent on the market, and the number of teams interested in signing him is in double-digits. The $20 million posting fee — which will be paid in four parts over two years — offsets the total amount of his upcoming contract, which is expected to be upwards of $100 million.
He has until 5 p.m. EST on January 24th to sign with an MLB club, or he’ll be forced to go back to Japan to play with the Rakuten Golden Eagles until they decide to post him again.
The Yankees came into the offseason with the hopes of re-signing Robinson Cano, then winning the bidding war for Tanaka. Well, Cano left for Seattle, and the Yankees’ rotation could be very subpar should they fail to land him, making their need to him sign even bigger.