With the sweepstakes to sign Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka underway, it appears a surprise front-runner has emerged out of nowhere. Multiple reports suggest the Seattle Mariners appear to be the favorites for the 25-year-old pitcher and could run away with the competition.
Ben Badler of Baseball America is always clued in to the international signing market and he lists the Mariners as his favorite as well. Seattle has money to spend after inking a new regional television contract that will pay the team $2 billion over the next 17 years, and the franchise is pushing hard to improve the product on the field.
Seattle has been trying to trade for Tampa Bay Rays lefty David Price, but acquiring Tanaka would likely put a stopper in that talk. After signing second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract earlier this offseason, the team has $47 million committed to Cano and Felix Hernandez next season, and not much money invested elsewhere.
The Mariners will owe $6.5 million to Hisashi Iwakuma, $6 million to Corey Hart and after arbitration hearings likely won’t owe anyone else more than $3 million. There is tons of room for Seattle to add a guy like Tanaka.
A pitching rotation with Hernandez, Tanaka, Iwakuma (Tanaka’s former teammate in Japan) and possibly 21-year-old prospect Taijuan Walker could change the makeup of the American League West. Throw in either James Paxton or Erasmo Ramirez in the final spot and that lineup of starting pitchers looks downright scary.
This is all speculation, since there is no guarantee the Mariners will sign Tanaka. The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers are firmly in the mix, and the Chicago Cubs are lurking. The Detroit Tigers also can’t be counted out.
But the situation in Seattle could be an appealing one for Tanaka. He wouldn’t have to deal with the stress of New York, Los Angeles or Chicago and could be a part of an absolutely killer rotation in Seattle. The Mariners have money to toss around, so don’t be surprised if they aren’t done adding offensive talent to the mix as well.
They have added both Logan Morrison and Hart to the outfield, and appear set at second third and shortstop with Cano, Kyle Seager and Brad Miller. Meanwhile, former first-round draft pick Mike Zunino will fit in at catcher. Adding a guy like Nelson Cruz (a free agent) or trading for someone like Colby Rasmus, Jon Jay or Brett Gardner could fill things out in the outfield.
In one offseason things have started to look up in Seattle and adding Tanaka would only solidify that.