December 26, 2013
Masahiro Tanaka officially posted by Rakuten
A few details regarding the process trickled out on Christmas Day:
The full market for the 25-year-old Tanaka should become clearer now that he is officially available, though we already know of five likely suitors. ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweeted on Thursday night that the Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rangers, and Yankees “are among the teams to watch” when Close can officially begin fielding offers.
Bowden left out the Mariners, who, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, have been telling agents that they are running low on cash. Whether that is a negotiating ploy or a legitimate message is unclear, but as Rosenthal pointed out, their offseason would feel incomplete without a second star player to go along with Robinson Cano. Given the Mariners’ trade interest in Rays lefty David Price and their reticence to part with top prospect Taijuan Walker, a run at Tanaka would make sense.
That puts six teams in the running, and we can also be fairly confident of a seventh bidder: the Cubs, who are “all in” according to Bruce Levine of local radio affiliate 670 The Score. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are no strangers to the Japanese pitching market, having imported Daisuke Matsuzaka while with the Red Sox, and Matsuzaka’s up-and-down time in Boston won’t scare them off from a run at Tanaka.
While it would be unwise to read much into Tanaka’s selection of Close, the former minor-league pitcher has a strong working relationship with the Dodgers and Yankees. Close represents both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the top two starting pitchers in Los Angeles’ rotation, as well as Derek Jeter, whose 10-year, $189 million pact with the Yankees in 2000 remains the largest (in terms of guaranteed money) ever negotiated by the head of Excel Sports Management.
Close has assembled an impressive portfolio of pitcher clients, from Kershaw and Greinke—who, like Tanaka, did not have an agent before he chose Close—to Homer Bailey, who left the Hendricks Bros. agency for Excel earlier this month.
After scuttling Grant Balfour hitch, Orioles chasing Fernando Rodney
Chris Cotillo of SB Nation heard from a source over the weekend that Dan Duquette’s backup plan is Fernando Rodney, one of the select few relievers still available who can boast ninth-inning experience. Rodney was considerably less dominant in his second season with the Rays than he was in his first, largely because his walk rate soared from a career-low 5.3 percent to 12.4 percent, but the 36-year-old still posted a 2.84 FIP and a career-best 28.3 percent strikeout clip.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted two weeks ago that Rodney’s agent, Dan Lozano, was hunting for a two- or three-year commitment worth $10 million annually. If that price tag has not waned, Rodney would cost the Orioles at least $5 million more than Balfour would have. The Mariners and Indians, whose former closer Chris Perez signed with the Dodgers earlier this week, are among the other teams that have been connected to Rodney this offseason.
Balfour mulling one offer, fielding interest from four teams
The Rays and Yankees have been connected to Balfour since the Orioles backed away, so there is a strong chance that he will land with an American League East rival and turn his rage against the O’s. Balfour was supplanted in Oakland by Jim Johnson, whom the A’s acquired from the Orioles for Jemile Weeks at the non-tender deadline on December 2.