Finally, the Rakuten Golden Eagles have agreed to post Masahiro Tanaka, so here on American soil at least 12 -- if not more -- teams are salivating at the chance to sign the pitching phenom.
Some teams have more of a need than others, but we could be seeing a situation where the rich get even richer, just to keep Tanaka away from a rival.
Here are teams that could be making a push to sign Tanaka:
New York Yankees: Whenever a big-name international free agent is made available, the Yankees are in. After re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and already employing Ichiro, Tanaka would certainly feel comfortable on the roster with a few of his countrymen.
The Yankees were supposed to be cutting back on payroll this offseason, but instead have splurged in the signings of Kuroda, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann. Adding Tanaka would be the next piece for the team to compete with the Red Sox.
C.C. Sabathia and Kuroda right now top the rotation, but if the team fails to sign Tanaka, they’d rely on a combination of Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno.
The team is hoping Pineda returns to 2011 form, but that’s very much a long shot. That’s why Tanaka is very high on the team’s wish list.
Seattle Mariners: With the success that Hisashi Iwakuma had in Seattle last season, Tanaka could be intrigued by pitching for the Mariners. And now that the team showed it’s willing to spend money in the signing of Robinson Cano, this could be a match.
The Mariners really are only now a piece or two away from challenging the Athletics, Rangers and Angels in the AL West. Felix Hernandez and Iwakuma lead the rotation, and the team feels confident that super prospect Taijuan Walker is ready for the big leagues.
Erasmo Ramirez also made some positive strides last season. Adding Tanaka would give this team a very strong five-man rotation.
Seattle is a popular location for Japanese players making the jump to big leagues (Ichiro, Iwakuma, Kasahiro Sasaki, Kenji Johjima), so Tanaka could be next in line.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The D’Backs have money to spend, and they are rumored to be ready to make a huge push to sign Tanaka.
The team has some good arms in Patrick Corbin, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy. Randall Delgado is currently penciled into the fifth spot in the rotation, but he could either be a swingman or minor-league insurance if the team brings in Tanaka.
Arizona needs an ace right now. The other pitchers are all solid, but when this team won its World Series back in 2001, it had two aces in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. One ace, like Tanaka, and four other solid starters could be the recipe for this team to get back to the Fall Classic in the coming years.
Chicago Cubs: The Cubs are in a similar position to the Diamondbacks: Both teams have some money.
The Cubs also need an ace to slot in front of Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson. The team’s best pitcher, Jeff Samardzija, has been rumored as a trade candidate all offseason, so if the team signs Tanaka, it could either feel comfortable trading Samardzija or keep him to have a very strong rotation.
As of now, youngsters Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta will be looked upon to round out the rotation, but the Cubs would certainly feel more comfortable with Tanaka in the fold and then having these two compete for the final spot.
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles have done nothing this whole offseason as the teams around them in the AL East get better. Maybe they are aiming all their resources at signing Tanaka.
Just like the Diamondbacks, the Orioles have a few good pitchers but no ace. Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, Bud Norris and Wei-Yin Chen would make up a formidable backend of a rotation behind an ace-type pitcher.
Baltimore has a nice crop of players to be a competitive team, but Tanaka is the key piece that could get this team back to the playoffs.
Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays, like the Orioles, have done nothing this offseason, except sign Dioner Navarro. I originally predicted that both Kuroda and Tanaka would sign with the Jays, but once Kuroda went to the Yankees, that prediction fell through.
But I could still be halfway right. Behind R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle, Toronto has a few question marks in the rotation. J.A. Happ and Esmil Rogers are candidates, but to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox, the Blue Jays could use Tanaka.
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies really need a starting pitcher, which not too long ago was unnecessary. But with Roy Oswalt long gone and now Roy Halladay retiring, the four aces are down to just two: Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
Behind these two, the Phillies’ rotation is very uncertain, with Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona), Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Pettibone and rookie Miguel Gonzalez slated to compete for the final three spots.
The team’s aging offense isn’t getting any younger, so Tanaka could really help shore up the rotation.
But if the team can’t sign Tanaka, expect them to bring in at least one of Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.
Others: The other teams that may make a play for Tanaka all have money: the Dodgers, Tigers, Rangers, Red Sox and Angels.
The Dodgers, Red Sox and Rangers already have a surplus of starting pitching arms, while the Tigers and Angels really only have one opening apiece that’s looking like it will be filled internally.
But the thought process of these teams is that they can prevent Tanaka from going to a divisional rival by signing him for themselves. Having too many starting pitchers is never a problem.
Some other teams could also be in the mix, but Tanaka’s new home likely will be one of the above teams.
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