It’s been a quiet week on the Masahiro Tanaka front, at least in terms of hard news. With the holidays, and the inevitable post-posting lull, I suppose that’s no surprise.
And then there was a considerable uptick today, generally within a couple hours of each other, with all of it pointing in one direction: Seattle.
First, there’s Ben Badler, who today ranks the possible landing spots for Tanaka – the Cubs come in as one of the “heavyweights,” behind the Dodgers and Yankees (naturally) – and reports that “based on conversations with industry officials, Seattle’s resources and the makeup of the team, they are a strong fit.” That’s why Badler presently ranks the Mariners as the top contender to sign Tanaka.
Then there’s Jayson Stark, who reports that other interested teams all say that the team to watch out for is the Mariners, who “have one big move left.” Once again, it makes sense that the Mariners would be in heavy pursuit, given the Robinson Cano move (and the Felix Hernandez extension, and the four years of control they’ve got on Hisashi Iwakuma). There’s a window opening for them if they make the right additional moves. Tanaka is a strong start.
And, finally, there’s Dan Szymborski writing for ESPN, who suggests there’s no team that needs Tanaka more than the Mariners. (The Cubs are noted in there, but mostly as a throwaway.) As discussed, I don’t know that anyone could argue otherwise, given the impending window.
Earlier in the offseason, there were indications that the Mariners were tapped out financially, which was hard to accept, given that they’d just splurged in the extreme on Cano, but added nothing else of consequence to justify such an expenditure. To compete in the NL West during Cano’s most productive years, the Mariners needed more. Tanaka is a perfect fit, if they’ve got the money.
So … do they?
Well, if the persistent whispers about a possible future sale of the team are true, then there’s probably as much money available as necessary to turn the team into a contender. The payoff in a sale is too great to go cheap in the run-up. Further, the folks Badler and Stark have been speaking with certainly get the sense that there’s plenty of money there for the Mariners to make the move.
Does this make the Mariners the favorite? The truth is, they felt like a favorite the day they signed Cano. They’d fallen off only because of those financial rumors coupled with frequent reports that the Yankees didn’t care about staying under $189 million if it meant getting Tanaka.
You’d have to think the Yankees and Mariners are now 1 and 1(a) in the pursuit. The Cubs are reportedly so interested that they “won’t be outbid,” but it’s probably going to cost a whole, whole lot to not be outbid if the Mariners, joining the Yankees, are jonesing as hard as these reports indicate.
That said, don’t despair yet if you’ve got your heart set on Tanaka. He’s got until January 24 to sign, and it’s still very, very early.