Mariners 'are a team to watch' in race for Masahiro Tanaka
Tanaka, of course, is the hottest international player on the market this offseason. He posted an absolutely ridiculous record of 24-0 in 27 starts this past season, registering a phenomenal 1.27 ERA in the process. He is expected to get a "minimum" of $17 million annually, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, and that will be in addition to a $20 million posting fee that will be paid to Tanaka's old team - the Rakuten Golden Eagles - by the MLB team that signs him.
Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News reported back on December 27 that the Mariners could be the New York Yankees' stiffest competition for Tanaka, so these reports are certainly worth taking seriously.
Seattle would be an interesting landing spot for Tanaka for a few reasons. First of all, playing for a team on the west coast would put Tanaka to his native land of Japan.
In addition, some pressure would be taken off Tanaka because of the studs that the Mariners already have in their rotation. 2010 Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez is signed through 2019 on a monster deal and is the unquestioned ace in Seattle. 21-year-old Taijuan Walker is the best pitching prospect in baseball and seems likely to be the active roster to start the 2014 season. The expectations for Tanaka would still be high, but the presence of other high-profile pitchers on the staff would put less weight on Tanaka than if he signed somewhere as an ace.
That being said, a pitching trio of Hernandez, Tanaka, and Walker could end up giving the Mariners one of the most dangerous rotations in the league. The Mariners appear dead set on turning their team around as soon as possible, and the addition of Tanaka - combined with the development of Walker - could help the Mariners vastly improve on their 4.65 team ERA from 2013, which was the fifth-worst in the MLB.
If you'd like to learn a little more about Tanaka, including quick breakdowns on each of the seven pitches he throws, click here.