Rosenthal: Don’t count Diamondbacks out in Tanaka derby

Jan 3, 2014, 4:33 PM | Updated: 4:34 pm

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.

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Rosenthal: Don’t count Diamondbacks out in Tanaka derby