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December 26, 2013

Rumor Roundup

Tanaka Time

by Daniel Rathman

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Masahiro Tanaka officially posted by Rakuten
In a decision first reported by Japanese outlet Sponichi and translated by Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, the Rakuten Golden Eagles have decided to allow their ace right-hander to move to the majors.

A few details regarding the process trickled out on Christmas Day:

  • The posting period begins today and will end at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on January 24, according to New York Daily News Yankees beat writer Mark Feinsand.
  • Feinsand also noted that the pool of teams with which Tanaka can negotiate will not be limited at the outset to those who submit a $20 million bid to Rakuten. Instead, Tanaka can discuss a major-league deal with any team, provided that the club is willing to send the maximum posting fee to Rakuten after it signs him to a contract.
  • Tanaka did not have an agent when the saga began earlier this winter, but he has reportedly hired Casey Close to represent him as the bidders line up.

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
We still do not know what led the Orioles to nix their two-year agreement with former Athletics closer Grant Balfour. We do know that both sides are quickly moving on.

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
Though a player’s claims about his own market should be taken with a grain of salt, Balfour, who turns 36 on the 30th, told MLB Network Radio host Jim Duquette that four clubs are in contact with his agent and one has made its interest official.

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.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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