BOSTON — Don’t bank on Masahiro Tanaka joining the Boston Red Sox, although general manager Ben Cherington certainly did his homework on the Japanese ace.
Cherington said before the Hot Stove Cool Music Baseball Roundtable at Fenway Park on Tuesday that the Red Sox engaged in talks with Tanaka and his agent, Casey Close, but there continues to be very little to suggest that Boston will make a strong push to acquire the 25-year-old right-hander.
“We’ve had discussion with him, and I think out of respect to him and his representatives and the process they’re going through, I just don’t think it’s right for me to say much more than that,” Cherington said. “We respect him as a pitcher, certainly respect the process that he’s going through [in] trying to make a decision. We’ll all know more by the end of the week.”
Tanaka, who was posted by his Japanese club, has until Friday at 5 p.m. ET to sign with a Major League Baseball club. It’s possible that Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball in 2013, could command a contract in the $120 million range in addition to the $20 million posting fee that his signing team must pay Rakuten.
Signing Tanaka clearly is an expensive endeavor, and the Red Sox’ recent reluctance to dole out big contracts in free agency and their current surplus of starting pitching seem to make Boston a long shot for the promising, young hurler rather than a favorite. The New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers are among the teams most commonly linked to Tanaka this winter.
The Red Sox have long studied Tanaka, though. According to Cherington, Boston’s work on the pitcher traces back beyond last summer, when Tanaka was still dominating the Pacific League and the current Japanese posting system was not yet in place.
“Once it became clear [this offseason] that he was essentially a free agent, we had done all the work that we needed to do on him and scouting him and getting to know him personally and all that stuff last summer — maybe even before that. So we were prepared to be involved, and then it was just a question of the parameters that we felt made sense for us,” Cherington said Tuesday. “We don’t know what the outcome of that process is yet. I guess we’ll all know by the end of the week.”
Cherington also said Tuesday that he expects to add to the Red Sox’ roster before spring training, and that it’s possible Boston could acquire a pitcher or two. Making a huge splash by signing Tanaka would be a totally shocking development, though.