Masahiro Tanaka bidding begins on Thursday morning and will conclude by January 24

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Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 212 innings this past summer for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball and was cleared on Tuesday evening to pursue his dream of pitching at the sport’s highest level: Major League Baseball. Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News lays out the details for the big-money bidding war that will play out in the weeks ahead:

The Cubs, Yankees, Angels and Diamondbacks are just a few of the teams that have expressed serious interest in the star 25-year-old right-hander. He could command more than $100 million in guaranteed money.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?