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Wednesday, January 22, 2014
White Sox swing and miss with Tanaka

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox gave it their best shot, but their pitch to land Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka was swept aside.

Reports on Wednesday say the New York Yankees ultimately landed the ace, who went 24-0 last season with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles while leading the team to a title. The 25-year-old reportedly signed for $155 million over seven years.

Masahiro Tanaka
The White Sox's sales pitch to Masahiro Tanaka wasn't enough to sway the Japanese League star to come to the South Side.
Terms of the White Sox's offer have not been revealed, but both the length of the contract -- especially for a pitcher -- and the dollar amount are nowhere near in line with White Sox contracts in the past. The team has always balked at long-term deals for pitchers, and the biggest financial commitment they have ever made in a contract was Jose Abreu's $68 million deal earlier this offseason.

There is not a high expectation that the White Sox will turn to the next tier of free agents on the market, such as Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. While Tanaka would have cost more than any of those pitchers, his appeal was that he was an extremely rare pitching talent whose prime years still figure to be ahead of him.

Garza, Santana and Jimenez are all over 30, and investing long term in any of them figures to be less of a certainty despite the fact that Tanaka has never pitched in the major leagues.

That doesn't mean the White Sox aren't looking at the 30-something crowd to fill out a rotation spot. Expect them to pursue a short-term commitment to pitchers bunched in the middle tier of the free-agent class.

Available free-agent starters in that tier include Paul Maholm, Chris Capuano, Joe Saunders, Tommy Hanson, Jason Hammel, Jerome Williams, Shaun Marcum and Daisuke Matsuzaka, although adding any of the left-handers doesn't seem likely.

The White Sox could try a one-year deal, with the possibly of an option year, for any of the middle-tier starters. They could even go two years with the idea they could move that pitcher at the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline if the season is not a success by the midway point.

Another obvious option to add to the rotation figures to be internal candidates. That route remains in line with the team's desire to get better with young talent that has the potential to be around for a while. The bonus is that internal candidates are far more affordable than free-agent options.

As of now, the White Sox are looking at a starting rotation of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, John Danks and a middle-tier free agent. Candidates for the No. 5 spot would include Erik Johnson, Andre Rienzo and Dylan Axelrod.

The attempt to add Tanaka was not a success, but despite being a long shot to land the right-hander, the White Sox didn't just let the chance fall by the wayside.

They made their offer, showed Tanaka and his representatives how they planned to be a winning team in the near future and, in the process, reaffirmed their plan to move forward with young talent with upside rather than older talent expected to match career norms while being paid top dollar.

It still remains an intriguing offseason for the White Sox, even if the best pitcher on the free-agent market decided to go elsewhere.