Rubin's source believes the Mariners are looking to capitalize on their already strong rotation and the $240 million gamble they made on Robinson Cano earlier this winter-
"They have a following in Japan. They enjoyed what they had when Ichiro (Suzuki) was on the team.
"They want the chance for moves like getting Cano to pay off. And they envision [Felix] Hernandez paired with Tanaka at the top of the rotation."
While teams like the Yankees, Cubs and Diamondbacks have been connected to Tanaka frequently, the Mariners have been surprisingly quiet. They expressed interest in Bartolo Colon before he landed with the Mets and they have recently been connected free agent starter Ervin Santana, but few rumors have linked them to the Golden Eagles ace over the past few weeks. While there are obvious reasons to suspect they will make a play for Japan's top pitcher, the team might be unwilling to follow up the largest contract in franchise history with another big-money deal, however, as Scott Weber of Lookout Landing explains-
"Now the Mariners are at a crossroads when it comes to Tanaka. Maybe they're really just lying in the weeds, but I have my suspicions that they're simply scared of taking that next huge step, especially for a risky player like Tanaka. As I said before, it's very rare indeed to see a player hit free agency at 25, but it's also rare to see that player get paid like he's already proven he can perform at the major league level."
Whether or not Tanaka is really a target for Seattle, they have clearly made adding another arm a priority at this point. Even if they do not joining the bidding for the Rakuten star, they could be very active in the next few weeks as they look to secure one of the other available arms.