It's a happy holiday for baseball teams this winter. Starting Tuesday, Masahiro Tanaka, Japan's top pitcher, will be allowed to sign with any team that is willing to pay the Rakuten Golden Eagles $20 million as a release fee for Tanaka. Although no team will likely bid on Tanaka for some time, teams have expressed interest. Let's break down which teams have shown interest in Tanaka.
New York Yankees: The Yankees need serious pitching in 2014. Yes they have C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova, but young, unproven arms in Michael Pineda and David Phelps seem like the leaders to round out the staff. Pineda made 28 starts in 2011 with the Mariners, when he posted a 101 ERA+ and a 3.74 ERA. He missed the entire 2012 season and 87 games in 2013 recovering from shoulder surgery. Phelps posted a 81 ERA+ in 22 games with the Yankees in 2013. We know the Yankees have the money for Tanaka. Being young and better than the rest of the starters on the market, he seems like the best option for the Yankees.
Chicago Cubs: The Chicago Cubs have expressed interest in the right-hander. CSN Chicago's Dave Kaplan spoke to a MLB source on Tuesday. "I just spoke with a source who believes Cubs will not be outbid on Tanaka. He also said convincing Tanaka to come to Chicago will be hard," Kaplan tweets. Tanaka will get the money from the Cubs, but might not want to come there over the Dodgers and the Yankees. Again, he'll add youth and talent to a team with a good amount of it down in the Minor Leagues. Also adding Tanaka to a staff with Jeff Samardzija (with no trade) could make the Cubs a borderline playoff team in 2014.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers have pitching, but we know they'll do anything to win the World Series. It could be worth nothing, but Tanaka chose the same agent who represents Dodgers pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zach Grienke. That means the agent has a good relationship with the team, which could boost the probability of Tanaka heading to Los Angeles. Their GM said on Tuesday that he was pretty much finished tinkering with his 40-man roster. That was before Tanaka was posted. The Dodgers are in the "wait-and-see" mode right now.
Other teams with interest: Angels, Mariners, Red Sox, among others are also interested in Masahiro Tanaka.