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Bizarre Injury May Vault Free-Spending Rangers Into Tanaka Sweepstakes

Holland To Miss Half Of Next Season; Texas Could Emerge As Another Threat To Yankees
Catcher Kenji Johjima and pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, right, smile after the top of seventh inning of the World Baseball Classic Tokyo Round match between Japan and China at Tokyo Dome on March 5, 2009. (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

Catcher Kenji Johjima and pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, right, smile after the top of seventh inning of the World Baseball Classic Tokyo Round match between Japan and China at Tokyo Dome on March 5, 2009. (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Man’s best friend may end up being the Yankees’ worst enemy.

Despite reportedly having a thing for Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka, the Texas Rangers appear to not be among the finalists to sign the Japanese right-hander.

But that could change now that left-hander Derek Holland will probably miss half of next season.

Holland, who went 10-9 with a 3.42 ERA last season, throwing a team-high 213 innings, was injured while playing with his pet boxer, “Wrigley,” at his home.

“I was running around with the dog and took off up the stairs,” Holland told the Dallas Morning News. “He chased me and ran up under me and undercut me, and I slammed my head on the steps.

“It could have been worse. I could have cracked my head open. I was doing a typical guy thing, clowning around with the dog thing, and this happened.”

The injury creates an immediate and glaring void in the Texas rotation and since the Rangers expect to be in contention every season and have not been shy about spending big dollars over the last few years — a $60 million deal with right-hander Yu Darvish and the recent seven-year, $130 million contract doled out to outfielder Shin-Soo Choo come immediately to mind — they could very well throw their hat into the Tanaka ring.

According to reports, the Yankees and Los Angeles-based Dodgers and Angels are believed to be the leading candidates to sign Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese league last season.

It is believed the 25-year-old will command a contract paying him at least $17 million over multiple seasons, likely bringing the overall value of his package close to $100 million. The Yankees have huge question marks in their rotation after CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda. It’s possible the fifth slot will be one of Michael Pineda or David Phelps, but they apparently are not considering going to war in 2014 with both in the starting five.

Tanaka has been said to have No. 1 starter stuff, with a fastball in the mid-90s and a splitter that drops off the table. If the Yankees sign him he will likely be slotted in right behind Sabathia.

But now the Rangers may join the Tanaka sweepstakes. While it remains to be seen if they will get into a full-blown bidding war for him, they will certainly need to get someone to replace Holland, who has 38 wins over the last three seasons.

Working in the Yankees’ favor is the arbitrator ruling on Alex Rodriguez. His 162-game suspension will save the Yankees $22 million next season, open the door to going above and beyond to get Tanaka and possibly give them a shot to come in under the $189 million luxury tax salary threshold.

Whichever teams that don’t land Tanaka will likely turn their attention to Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, the top three starters left on the market. Their futures have seemingly been tied to Tanaka signing a contract ever since Rakuten decided to post him.

Major league teams have until Jan. 24 to get Tanaka signed and pay the $20 million posting fee, or else he will return to Japan.

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