We already know the Yankees are interested in Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, but they are going to have plenty of competition.
Phil Rogers of MLB.com was told by sources that Tanaka has become a “top priority” for the Cubs’ front office. The club is expected to have a large contingent in attendance to watch him pitch in the Japan Series, which begins this weekend.
Regarded as the best pitcher in Japan, Tanaka has been on an incredible run this season, going 24-0 with a a 1.27 ERA and 183/32 K/BB ratio over 212 regular season innings. The 24-year-old has remained undefeated during the postseason, including a seven-hit shutout earlier this month.
Tanaka’s team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, are expected to make him available via the posting process once the Japan Series is over. The thought is that the bidding could rival the $51,703,411 fee the Rangers paid to secure exclusive negotiating rights with Yu Darvish two offseasons ago. The two sides eventually agreed to a six-year, $56 million contract.
The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.
Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.
As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.