The Yankees are planning to make Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka a "top priority" this winter and are considered the team to beat in bidding for the 25-year-old, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Writes Passan: "If re-signing Robinson Cano is priority No. 1 for the New York Yankees this offseason, securing the rights to Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka is No. 1a."
The Yankess "are going to be bold" in bidding for Tanaka, Passan continues. Previously, Passan has spoken with executives who believe that Tanaka's posting fee could top $75MM, although we still don't quite know how the posting system will work going forward. Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball have been working on alterations to the posting process for quite some time, and George A. King III of the New York Post reported earlier today that a resolution could still be several weeks away. Under the previous system, Tanaka could have been posted on Nov. 1.
Passan writes that Yankees officials aren't concerned about previous failures of Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa on the big stage in New York, adding that they liken Tanaka's makeup and personality to that of Hideki Matsui.
The Yankees are in the market for two starting pitchers to pair with CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova next year, Passan continues, and they're intrigued by Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Dan Haren. The Yankees are not expected to be in the market for Ervin Santana, he adds, as they don't feel that he would fit well in New York. Jimenez and Santana would cost the Yankees a draft pick due to the fact that each is all but certain to reject the qualifying offers received on Monday. Garza and Haren did not receive qualifying offers.
The Yankees figure to have some deep-pocketed competition for Tanaka, as the Dodgers are expected to be aggressive in pursuing him, and he's on the Angels' radar as well. Despite the success of Yu Darvish, reports have indicated that the Rangers aren't expected to be big-time players for Tanaka, of whom they don't think as highly as Darvish. The Giants, another team that has spend liberally of late, aren't expected to be serious players for Tanaka either, despite having some interest.
The Yankees' motivation may be greater than that of any other suitor, as Tanaka fits within their desire to reduce payroll below the $189MM luxury tax threshold. Tanaka's posting fee won't count against that tax, and his average annual value could be notably lower than the current crop of Major League free agent pitchers.