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The MLB Bidding War For Masahiro Tanaka Has Begun

MLB squads with $20 million to blow can get a shot at signing the Japanese right-hander. 

By J.R. Gamble December 27, 2013, 05:30 PM EST

Tanaka

As expected Robinson Cano is the big-fish position player of this year's MLB Hot Stove flow. The former Yankees second baseman has been an elite player for some time now. Japanese hurler Masahiro Tanaka, however, hasn't played a big league game on U.S. soil and he's the hottest pitching commodity on the open market.

Now that's star power.

As of Thursday, the right-hander is free to seek a major league job and a 30-day window has been established for clubs to sign him. Tanaka's new agent, Casey Close, can begin discussions with interested teams that first submit a posting fee.

Under the new MLB rules, bidders on Tanaka must submit a posting fee capped at $20 million to Tanaka’s NPB club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles. It's similar to proposed marriages in certain cultures, where a hefty gift must be offered by the suitor before the actual negotiating process even begins. That money frees clubs to negotiate with Tanaka, with only the winning bidder actually required to pay the fee. The righty has until 5 p.m. on Jan. 24 to strike a deal with an MLB club.

Tanaka struck out 458 batters over the course of his high school career (2004-2006), surpassing current New York Mets pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka's previous national high school record of 423 with Yokohama Senior High School. He also hit 13 home runs during those three years. From 2012 to 2013, he won a Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB)-record 26 consecutive decisions, which included a 24-0 record and 1.27 ERA last season. To top it off, his wife is Japanese pop idol Mai Satoda of Hello! Project group Country Musume.

Like I said before; "That's next-level celestial sh*t." 

All signs point to the bright lights of the Bronx Bombers as Tanaka's MLB destination. He'd be following in the footsteps of legendary Japanese outfielder Hadeki Matsui, who came to NY in 03' and captivated the town with his boisterous bat, rock-star following and flair for the dramatic.

By the time negotiations are through, it's reported that the total bill to hook Tanaka will exceed $100 million. While that hefty price tag eliminates certain small market teams and philosophically frugal squads like the Mets, sources say the bidding will be spirited with the Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Cubs also gunning for the golden-arm of Tanaka. Recent reports say the World Champion Boston Red Sox are contemplating the viability of taking a crack at Tanaka, and Thursday's NY Daily News reported that Seattle may not be donespending after bagging Cano for $240 million. 

Tanaka has what scouts describe as a "Curt Schilling caliber splitter", which is saying something considering Shilling struck out over 300 guys three times and is a future Hall of Famer. In comparison to the last two high-priced, highly-hyped Japanese imports, MLB heads say Tanaka's better than former Red Sox pitcher (Daisuke) Matsuzaka, who went 33-15 in his first two seasons with Boston in 2007-2008 before fizzling out, but not quite as nasty as Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish. His posting fee also pales in comparison to Darvish's, which was between $50-$60 million. 

Besides for money, the Yankees are considered to have the inside track on Tanaka because Close is also Derek Jeter’s agent. The Yankees have already signed Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Matt Thornton, Brian Roberts and Hideki Kuroda to deals this offseason totaling $308 million.

If the Yankees do sign Tanaka, this final off season purchase would almost certainly put the Yankees above the self-proposed $189 million in payroll for 2014, pushing them beyond the luxury-tax threshold.

After failing to make the playoffs this past season, the Yankees have abandoned their new conservative approach and resorted back to the theory, "it ain't tricking if you got it."

Even with the new additions the rotation needs  bolstering with rubber-armed CC Sabathia’s shaky season and Kuroda's late-season dive, leaving huge question marks concerning who will fill the ace role.

The 25-year-old Tanaka would fit that bill, and the entire baseball world is literally being held hostage by his alloted month of negotiations. Tanaka is expected to set the market for remaining free-agent pitchers like Matt Garza and Ervin Santana. So once he inks his lucrative deal and Tanaka's new team begins preparing for the hundreds of Japanese media and fans that will be flooding into town--then the other unsigned vets will get his scraps.  

Now that's star power. 

Jr_gamble

J.R. Gamble writes for The Shadow League. He's been covering pro sports as a radio host and journalist since 1996. He's written for The Raleigh News & Observer, Newsday and SLAM Magazine. He has co-hosted Sportsrap Radio with A Tribe Called Quest legend Phife Dawg. Follow him @fanalyst1 & find him on Facebook.

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