COMMENTARY | According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale (via Twitter), the Los Angeles Dodgers have made it clear that money will not be an obstacle in their attempt to sign free-agent starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Landing Tanaka would give the Dodgers the best starting rotation in the majors, and perhaps position them as preseason favorites to win this year's World Series.
The newly negotiated $20 million cap on the posting fee that will be paid to Tanaka's Japanese club (the Rakuten Golden Eagles), if he indeed signs with a major league team, certainly increases the competition for his services. Tanaka began meeting with MLB clubs on Wednesday, and will reportedly meet with a dozen or more teams by the end of Friday.
However, the Dodgers are well-positioned to offer the 25-year-old Tanaka a larger contract than any other franchise, the amount of which is not capped by the agreement between MLB and Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league. Los Angeles already has the largest payroll in the majors, supported by the deep pockets of Guggenheim Baseball Management and a 25-year, $7 billion TV deal with Time Warner.
Money alone doesn't guarantee that the Dodgers will win the Tanaka sweepstakes. However, Los Angeles has a strong track record of success with former Japanese pitchers, highlighted by the tenures of Hideo Nomo and Hiroshi Kuroda.
Beating out the likes of the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners -- among others -- for Tanaka's services would give the Dodgers an embarrassment of riches in their starting rotation. Los Angeles already has one of the top five rotations in the majors anchored by reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, and South Korean lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Tanaka would also improve the Dodgers' chances of ending their 26-year World Series drought.
Los Angeles came up just short of reaching the Fall Classic last season, falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series in six games. Even so, the Dodgers are among the favorites to reach the World Series this year, with or without Tanaka.
There are roughly two weeks remaining before the 30-day negotiating window (which began at 8 a.m. on December 26) between Tanaka and MLB teams expires. If he has not agreed to a contract with a major league club before the window closes, Tanaka will have to wait another year to make his MLB debut.
With so many teams itching to sign the next Yu Darvish, it's hard to believe that this process will end without Tanaka signing a nine-figure contract to pitch in the U.S. beginning this season. If he ends up doing it in a Dodgers uniform, baseball fans in Los Angeles will be very happy come spring.
Geoff Ratliff is an MLB and fantasy baseball enthusiast and a former Featured Columnist for the Los Angeles Dodgers for Bleacher Report. He is also the co-host of the baseball podcast Pop Fly Boys and COO Fantasy Sports Warehouse.
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