Four days from the Masahiro Tanaka deadline, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty about where he’s leaning. Depending on the report, the Cubs are either the favorite or an absolute long shot. The Dodgers might be on the verge of adding Tanaka to their massive payroll, or they might be focused on extensions for Clayton Kershaw and (eventually) Hanley Ramirez. The Mariners, White Sox and Diamondbacks pop into the discussion from time to time, and of course the Yankees are still lurking, staying awfully quiet about their own negotiations.
One National League executive told Dave Waldstein that he expects the Yankees to “do what the Yankees do and bid more than any other team.”
What I can’t help wondering is, what if this comes down to something beyond money? It’s a possibility that’s been discussed plenty — the idea that Tanaka’s wife might prefer the West Coast; that he might want to win right away — but this late in the game, I have to believe no involved team is offering anything short of a massive contract. Even if we’re only getting bits and pieces of information, surely the teams involved have a good idea of what it will take financially.
Question is, what will it take beyond money? And how much does that matter?
The Yankees can offer a high-profile team in a massive market that’s built around a diverse city. They have a roster that already includes two Japanese standouts, and the franchise has maintained strong ties to iconic Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui. By investing in a new core of position players, the Yankees can make a case that Tanaka would make them a potent World Series contender (on which Tanaka would play a pivotal role). But they can’t offer the West Coast, they can’t promise Tanaka will become the biggest star on his team, and if he doesn’t like bright lights of New York City, there’s little the Yankees can do about.
Any team seriously involved in negotiations is well aware signing Tanaka is going to require a bunch of money and a long-term commitment. But what no one except Tanaka can really know (or impact) is what other factors — if any — are being weighed more heavily than a few extra million here or there.
Associated Press photo