Free agent starter Masahiro Tanaka arrived in the U.S. on Thursday to begin meeting with teams, according to David Waldstein of the New York Times.
The former Rakutan Golden Eagles ace was originally headed to Chicago but weather forced him to begin his tour in Los Angeles, Waldstein reports. While in L.A., Tanaka will undergo a medical exam that will be made available to all interest teams, according to Waldstein.
At least twelve clubs are expected to be in on the bidding, according to Waldenstein and a few front-runners have emerged at this point. The Yankees, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, White Sox and Cubs are believed to be meeting with him in L.A, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and Scott Melkin of MLB.com later confirmed that White Sox GM Rick Hahn, Executive VP Kenny Williams and manager Robin Ventura met with him on Thrusday.
Among these clubs, only the Dodgers appear to have any reservations on signing the Japanese star. GM Ned Colletti told Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles the team was in the "feeling out" stage in their pursuit of Tanaka and team president Stan Karsten downplayed the club's interest on ESPNLA 710 radio on Thursday.
Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reports that the Yankees have identified Tanaka as their number one target at this point.
The Red Sox have reached out to Tanaka's agent Casey Close, but the pitching-rich club is uncertain whether or not they will meet with him during his stay in America this week, according to Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com. The Red Sox do not appear to be serious contenders for NPB star at this point, but his signing could affect decisions about their starting rotation as they explore the trade market for some of their pitchers, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.
The Indians have also spoken with Close and could be among the teams meeting with him this week, according to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. The Indians aren't expected to be serious contenders for Tanaka, but they may lose starter Ublado Jimenez to free agency and they will need to address that hole in their rotation this offseason. Even if they decline to make a push for Tanaka, the bidding for his services will still affect their pursuit of pitching, Hoynes notes.
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