CHICAGO -- With just four days remaining until the deadline for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to finalize a contract with a major league team, the Chicago White Sox remain one of the favorites to land his services while also looking like a long shot.
All reports continue to say the White Sox are among the finalists to land the talented right-hander, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks. But the Dodgers, Yankees and Cubs have all reported to be offering deals the White Sox could find hard to match, and no reports are saying that the White Sox are near the lead in the sweepstakes.
Tanaka’s decision could come as early as Wednesday.
Going into the proceedings, the White Sox seem to have known that selling Tanaka on joining the club would have its challenges. Their current rebuild might be a quick one, but it’s a rebuild nonetheless, and then there is the fact that the club is coming off a 99-loss season, something that wasn’t going to be easy to hide.
Even the White Sox’s only statement on the subject seemed more guarded than certain that Tanaka could be convinced in joining the American League Central Division team.
“The meeting was exploratory in nature,” general manager Rick Hahn said in the statement nearly two weeks ago after team representatives met with the pitcher and his representatives. “It was an opportunity for us to sit down with Masahiro and discuss how he potentially fits our vision for the Chicago White Sox for the next several seasons.”
That doesn’t sound like the White Sox had the checkbook wide open or were flashing large sums of cash. Instead, it looks as if the White Sox are pleased enough with offseason acquisitions of Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson, not to mention last year’s grab of outfielder Avisail Garcia, to confidently show a plan for winning in the not-so-far-away future.
Perhaps the White Sox’s pitch to Tanaka all along was to acknowledge that they might not end up with the best overall contract package, but they do have a legitimate plan to win. That plan would have emphasized how Tanaka would be a huge player in all of it.
Even if the White Sox don’t succeed in landing the biggest name on the free-agent market, give them credit for trying. While some cynics might suggest that the White Sox were merely trying to look like a player in all of this to appease their fan base, there were dozens of other teams that could have followed the same line of thinking but didn’t.
The White Sox might be in the midst of a makeover, but they aren’t afraid to go out in public before it’s complete. Sure it’s a bit unorthodox, but it shows a sense of confidence after moves that have come during an intriguing winter.
That confidence is a good sign. Nobody knows if all the White Sox’s recent moves will be successful, but the front office sure seems to be feeling good about it, and the team’s involvement in the Tanaka saga shows that they aren’t afraid to tell others all about it.