After reports surfaced that the Seattle Mariners were the favorites to land Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, there seems to have been a major shift in the pursuit of him.
Tanaka reportedly met with eight to nine teams while he was visiting the United States recently, and reports out of Japan indicate that the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels are the finalists to win his services.
While that may be true, some past reports out of Japan have not been completely accurate about Tanaka and his situation.
Bill Plunkett of the Oakland County Register names the Yankees, Cubs and Diamondbacks as teams he met with specifically, but he did sit down with several other teams and also underwent a physical in Los Angeles.
As far as the Mariners are concerned, it appears that once Tanaka became familiar with the franchise’s situation, he was not all that happy with what he heard. That said, if the Mariners made an aggressive offer to him he would certainly have to consider it.
From the Japanese reports, it appears that Tanaka wants to play in a big market. Both Los Angeles teams and the Yankees could provide that, while the Cubs and Boston Red Sox could as well. The Red Sox do not appear to be involved in the chase for the 25-year-old at all though, and the Cubs are a few years away from contending.
The Dodgers, Angels and Yankees definitely have the money to make huge offers to Tanaka and they almost certainly will. He is the top free agent remaining on the market and all three teams are desperate to win a World Series. Tanaka may be the best Japanese pitcher to ever come to Major League Baseball and he will certainly give a boost to whichever team lands him.
Based on how things have gone so far during this saga, we have a feeling things will shift a few more times before Tanaka ends up making a final decision.