The sweepstakes for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka is not expected to heat up until next week, potentially coinciding when the Yankees will likely know the outcome of Alex Rodriguez's appeal of his 211-game suspension. Ahead of those negotiations becoming more intense, Baseball America's Ben Badler has released a breakdown of the teams presenting the most competition for Tanaka's services.
Among teams that Badler calls "The Lurkers" are the Rangers, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, and Angels, listed as #6-10. These teams may have a cursory interest in Tanaka, especially if the price is right, but are not expected to present a real threat to the more favorited teams. Coming in at #5, Badler calls the Tigers a sleeper team. They had a dominant rotation in 2013 and could only improve that with the acquisition of Tanaka. Having an already strong rotation means they don't need to break the bank, though.
Among the top four teams considered favorites by Badler are the (#4) Cubs, (#3) Dodgers, (#2) Yankees, and (#1) Mariners. Each team in the top four has money to spend and/or an immediate need for pitching. The Cubs could be looking to make a splash, the Dodgers have very deep pockets under new ownership, the Yankees' rotation is a giant question mark that could be filled if the Steinbrenner's are willing to blow past the $189 million goal, and the Mariners could look for another impact player to compliment the Robinson Cano signing.
It's difficult to imagine the Yankees letting the Mariners outbid them twice in one offseason, especially for a player that would fill an obvious hole on the team for next season. Losing out to Seattle on Cano and Tanaka would have to be seen as a huge disappointment for the Yankees this offseason. It's also difficult to underestimate the other two teams in strong contention for Tanaka's services, as well as the ever-popular mystery team that could present itself. If Alex Rodriguez's suspension is upheld and he misses the 2014 season, it seems unlikely that the Yankees wouldn't be able to throw some extra money Tanaka's way, and he has been rumored to be their top target of the offseason. If they are serious about that, there is no reason why Tanaka should be putting on Mariners teal instead of pinstripes.
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