The easy and most likely way to look at the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes -- the Rakuten Golden Eagles announced on Christmas that he'll be posted -- is to assume the Texas Rangers just don't have the budget flexibility to do very much should the bidding reach stratospheric proportions.
But as we've seen from this front office and ownership group, you never count them out when there's a chance to improve the club. And Tanaka would improve this rotation, giving it depth to add to the offensive punch the Rangers have acquired this offseason.
Besides the obvious advantages in terms of marketing internationally, which ESPN.com's Jim Bowden mentioned in his blog post yesterday, Tanaka would allow the club to slide everyone in the rotation down one spot. Imagine this rotation: Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and Tanaka (that's in alphabetical order). Alexi Ogando becomes the hard-throwing right-hander in the bullpen and the club would still have Ogando, Robbie Ross and others who could step in should injuries occur.
The Rangers could look at a variety of ways to find money to pay Tanaka, including trades. Or perhaps ownership decides that the budget, which is already being tested with the trade for Prince Fielder and the signing of Shin-Soo Choo, pending a physical, can extend some more to add another big arm to the rotation. The Rangers have 30 days from the moment Tanaka is posted to talk with him -- just like any other team -- and figure out how far they're willing to go. Don't expect Tanaka to find a new team in the first three weeks of that window. As we saw with Darvish, a player with whom the Rangers had exclusive negotiating rights, it took until the last moment to get a deal done. That's likely to happen here too.
So there is some time for things to happen. And with the new posting system, teams can negotiate with Tanaka and only the team that signs him pays the $20 million posting fee. Look for the Rangers to get involved and see how this goes. They have to be considered a long shot after all the money spent this winter and the fact that several big-money teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers are interested. But don't ever count the Rangers out. Should be an interesting next month to watch.