Dodgers pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka advances (slowly)

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said the Dodgers continue to engage the agent for Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka, whose major league future figures to be decided in the next couple of weeks.

Teams willing to pay the $20 million posting fee to Tanaka’s Japanese team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, have until Jan. 24 to reach a deal with the 25-year-old right-hander. Colletti said he doesn’t necessarily expect it to take that long before Tanaka makes his decision. Competition for Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year, figures to be intense, with the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and, perhaps, Seattle Mariners among the other interested clubs.

Colletti said he has had a couple of conversations already with Tanaka’s agent, Casey Close, who also happens to represent Dodgers pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

“I talked to Casey as soon as they announced he was going to be posted and as soon as they announced Casey would represent him,” Colletti said. “Obviously, Casey and I go back quite a while. They’re in a feeling-out process. They’re trying to learn about different cities, different teams, different markets, how teams are constructed going forward. You know, it’s a big decision for the player, too, so we’ve had those types of conversations and we’ll continue to see where it goes.”

ESPNNewYork’s Ian O’Connor quoted one Yankee source saying that club would “be heavily involved with Tanaka, very aggressive and at the top of the market, but won't get reckless and stupid,” which might be a fair characterization of the Dodgers’ position as well. Tanaka is expected to command a contract in excess of $100 million, plus the posting fee.

Speaking of his off-season approach in general, Colletti gave a hint that, if the Dodgers don’t sign Tanaka, their major off-season moves could be behind them. Aside from the Tanaka discussions, Colletti’s other priority is to find a utility infielder.

“We like to strike early. We don’t cast a wide net and then hope to bring in two or three out of 40,” Colletti said.