NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Let the sweepstakes begin!
Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka hit the ground running Wednesday with his first round of “clandestine meetings” in the U.S., according to WFAN and CBSSports.com baseball insider Jon Heyman.
Tanaka, camped out in the Los Angeles area, is expected to sit down with “as many as a dozen or so teams” by Friday, Heyman reported.
The New York Yankees, LA Dodgers, LA Angels, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks are thought to be among the clubs planning to meet with the coveted 25-year-old starting pitcher, according to Heyman.
Tanaka, who’s expected to fetch nine figures after being posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles last month, has until Jan. 24 to sign with an MLB team. Otherwise he’ll have to return to Japan.
Tanaka was brilliant for the Rakuten Golden Eagles last season, going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA.
Though details surrounding the chase are “being taken as a heavily guarded secret,” we do know the pitcher will be seen by an LA-area doctor so that teams will have a chance to evaluate his medical status, Heyman reported.
“(Tanaka’s agent) pretty much asked those clubs that are involved that just less is better and not to really say anything or divulge the process or what’s happening,” Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers told MLB.com. “We’re all up to speed with what’s to take place and how it will take place, just really not in the position to share any of it.”
The Yankees — linked to Tanaka since early this offseason — “plan to be aggressive,” according to the New York Times.
Former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who knows a thing or two about Japanese baseball, said earlier this month that Tanaka should forget about the Bronx.
“If I was him, I would pitch in the National League,” Valentine told the New York Post. “I would pitch on the West Coast and I would pitch where the weather isn’t going to be a factor.”
Ex-Yankee Darrell Rasner wouldn’t agree.
“New York is a tough market, but I think by him pitching in Japan he has had the entire country watching him, so I really don’t think it’s going to be a huge deal,” Rasner, who has been a teammate of Tanaka’s for the past five years, told WFAN’s Sweeny Murti. “I really hope he does end up with a big market team like the Yankees, I think it would be awesome.”
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