Masahiro Tanaka: the final 48?

Koji Watanabe

This week will see an end to the Tanaka bidding, and everything has to be done and dusted before Friday night Perhaps surprisingly, the D-backs appear to be in it to the end, and may even have the highest bid on the table. Let's review the current situation and latest updates.

I know there are those who expressed initial disinterest in the whole thing, but I suspect even they are more than likely now paying attention... One impressive thing is how secretive the process has been. Tanaka's agent, Casey Close, asked all parties involved to respect the confidentiality of negotiations, and up until Saturday's report in the Japanese media, that had been entirely watertight. In these days where every whisper becomes a Twitter typhoon, that's kinda remarkable. We thus should probably treat all other media reports as highly speculative. Which is why we've seen a lot of stuff like this over the past week - and, really, they're not actually that much of an exaggeration.

Though the official deadline is not until 2pm on Friday, we'll probably hear significantly sooner. That's because it's the deadline by which the deal must be entirely completed, including medical exams and a full sign-off. If that doesn't happen, following a last-minute hitch, Tanaka would have no option but to return to Japan for another season, not in the best interests of him or the team with which he's signing. Opinion suggests that announcement of the decision could come on Tuesday or Wednesday, to allow time for all the dotting of i's and crossing of t's needed before the deadline.

[ESPN] A closer look at Masahiro Tanaka - "I think the biggest test for Tanaka will be the command on his fastball. In Japan, you don't face the power hitters on a consistent basis like you do here, so it's easier to rear back and challenge hitters with your fastball if you fall behind in the count... Tanaka doesn't have Darvish's raw stuff, so he'll need to go after hitters like Iwakuma has done."

[BaseballAmerica] GIFs: Scouts On Masahiro Tanaka's Nastiest Pitches - "We pulled out three of the nastiest pitches Tanaka threw during the 2013 season—one each of his fastball, splitter and slider—to bring them to you in GIF form (thanks to GIF-master J.J. Cooper), with a take from scouts on each one." [H/T Steve B on Twitter!]

What's going to be almost as impressive is the feeding frenzy which will ensue, once the music stops and Tanaka is with one side. Because everyone else involved - and there are probably half a dozen teams in that category - will be scurrying for their respective Plan B's. We're in pretty unique circumstances here: of the top five other "true" free agent rotation candidates coming in to this off-season, all but Hiroki Kuroda remain unsigned, with less than three weeks until pitchers and catchers start to report for spring training. I wonder if the likes of Matt Garza have rented homes in both Florida and Arizona? Because your chances of getting anywhere at this point are pretty slim.

Please feel free to post any reports, rumors or rumors of reports in the comments. I think it's going to be an interesting 48 hours, perhaps unlike any in previous Diamondbacks history: I don't recall the last time we've even been in the conversation for a genuinely top-shelf free-agent. I think it must certainly have been before there was a SnakePit!

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