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Rosenthal: Don't count Diamondbacks out in Tanaka derby

Star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka of Japanese baseball club Rakuten Golden Eagles poses with his grand prix trophy during an awarding ceremony of the Japan Professional Sports Award in Tokyo, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. All 30 major league teams have been notified that the 30-day period to sign the 25-year-old right-hander began at 1300 GMT Thursday, according to Major League Baseball spokesman Michael Teevan. Clubs have until 2200 GMT on Jan. 24 to attempt to reach an agreement with the ace. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

The Arizona Diamondbacks' interest in Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has long been reported, but there are many who believe the team is a longshot to sign the sensation.

The reasoning is simple: Generally, players like this go to the highest bidder, and odds are that won't be the Diamondbacks.

However,'s Ken Rosenthal says the D-backs are very much in the race to land the 25-year-old who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan last season.

After all, he writes, they were prepared to spend a handsome sum to land free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo earlier in the offseason.

Tanaka, however, remains the D-backs' No. 1 target. Club officials do not expect to meet with him in Japan; the pitcher's agent, Casey Close, is discouraging such visits, sources said. But at this point, the D-backs expect to stay involved in the bidding, according to sources; the deadline for Tanaka to sign with a major league club is three weeks from Friday.

Any team that signs Tanaka must pay a $20 million posting fee to his Japanese club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles. If the pitcher's total salary reaches $120 million, the total outlay would match the $140 million that Boras wanted for Choo money the Diamondbacks were prepared to spend.

Rosenthal notes it's possible the D-backs will instead decide to pursue a less-expensive option such as free agent Matt Garza, but adds that Arizona could be an attractive destination for Tanaka and they know it.

In a perfect world, the Diamondbacks wanted to trade for a hitter and sign a pitcher. Trumbo became that hitter. And the D-backs, sources said, consider Tanaka to be superior to Garza as well as to free-agent righties Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, both of whom are attached to a draft pick.

In the end, the D-backs may lose out on Tanaka, but it won't be because they are ill-equipped to make a strong bid. They had money for Choo. They have money for Tanaka. No one should be surprised if they turn aggressive.

About the Author

School: University of Arizona

When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: Fall 2008, right before Cardinals Super Bowl run

Favorite sports memory: Being at Game 7 of the 2001 World Series with my dad

Favorite all-time athlete: Larry Centers

Favorite sports movies: The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, Jerry Maguire

Most crushing sports moment: Grew up in Arizona and went to UA from 2002-06. In short, there are too many to name just one.


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