Yankees and Dodgers believed to be favorites for Masahiro Tanaka

USA TODAY Sports

Buster Olney of ESPN reports that baseball executives believe the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes will ultimately come down to a battle between the Yankees and Dodgers. Very few people are surprised.

Masahiro Tanaka reportedly narrowed his list of preferred cities to New York, Los Angeles, or Boston last week, and now the Yankees and Dodgers have emerged from that list as the favorites to land the Japanese right-hander. It makes sense that two teams that have shown a willingness to spend big and support a large payroll would be seen as the final two giants standing when the bidding process ends January 24th, and ESPN's Buster Olney reports (subs req'd) that executives think it will ultimately shake out that way.

The Yankees have the bigger need for Tanaka with their rotation currently filled with numerous question marks. With Alex Rodriguez suspended for 2014 the Yankees have some extra money to throw around which could end up being tossed Tanaka's way. Olney writes that other team officials think the Dodgers are less interested in playing to the market set by other teams, instead being willing to set the market themselves. If that is true in the case of Tanaka, it may not matter what other teams are bidding if the Dodgers are willing to do what it takes to get their man.

Of course, the Dodgers do have likely a bigger desire to lock up their ace in Clayton Kershaw, who will be a free agent after the season is over if the two sides can't come to a deal before then. The Dodgers could possibly invest whatever money they might give Tanaka into Kershaw's next contract, leaving Tanaka open for the Yankees' taking. All of that is assuming that executives are correct that the Dodgers and Yankees are the two teams with a leg up on the competition in the bidding process.

There is little reason for Tanaka to sign on a dotted line until right before the deadline on the 24th. Giving the bidding process more time only allows for teams to raise the price they are willing to pay and increases the chances that more teams could get involved. It's possible that other factors than money will come into play in Tanaka's decisions, but he and agent Casey Close have to be pretty excited that the two teams at the head of the pack are two teams that have shown a willingness to spend whatever money is necessary to bring in a player they really want.

Do you think the Yankees can best the Dodgers in a bidding war for Tanaka? Knowing that these two teams are seen as the favorites, which do you think he lands with and what kind of contract do you think he ultimately receives?

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