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.
Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has played in exactly one Grapefruit league game this year, and that was way back on March 2. Since then he has been totally absent from the Nats’ big league spring games, playing instead on the back fields in sim games and in minor league contests.
While that’s not an unusual course of action for an injured or rehabbing player, both Zimmerman and the Nationals insist that there is nothing wrong with him. Per this report from MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, they’re saying that Zimmerman “simply prefers to get his work done in the more controlled environment of minor league games, where the rules are lax.” He doesn’t have to dive for balls, he can lead off every inning, etc. Manager Dave Martinez says Zimmerman simply doesn’t like the usual spring training grind and that this is working for him so he’s fine with it too.
Are you buyin’ that? Not sure I’m buyin’ that.
I suppose weirder things have happened. The Minnesota Twins once let Jack Morris go back to his farm in between starts rather than stay with the club. Other accommodations have been made for veterans, especially in spring training. But this is way more in keeping with a team hiding an injury. Though I have no idea why the Nats would choose to hide an injury to Zimmerman. They’ve talked at length about Daniel Murphy‘s knees and Adam Eaton‘s seemingly never-ending rehab. If Zimmerman has some aches and pains, you’d think they’d talk about it.
On the other hand, if this is a legit story and it is simply an accommodation for a veteran who doesn’t like the normal spring training grind, look for Zimmerman to be a trailblazer, because there are a LOT of dudes who hate spring training too and would love to change things up like this.