Giants strike deal with Japanese infielder Kensuke Tanaka

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From John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle comes word that the Giants are “closing in on signing” Japanese second baseman Kensuke Tanaka to a minor league contract. The deal is expected to include an invitation to spring training, where Tanaka will be in the running for a utility job.

The 31-year-old batted .300/.350/.363 with three home runs, 14 doubles, three triples and 32 RBI in 505 plate appearances last season for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan’s Pacific League.

Tanaka also stole 13 bases in 22 attempts.

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UPDATE, 10:45 PM: Shea reports that the minor league contract has now been made official.

Mets invite Tim Tebow to spring training

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Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.

Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.

Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.