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Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Tick, tock Tanaka

By Andrew Marchand

The Masahairo Tanaka deadline is set for 5 p.m. Friday. By then, Tanaka and his agent, Casey Close, must have everything from the final language in his contact to his physical completed.

So Tanaka must make his decision earlier. Though Close has instructed teams to keep a lid on negotiations -- and clubs have -- once Tanaka picks one club to complete a contract with, others may leak the information.

So we could find out sooner than late Friday.

Everyone wants a prediction, but no one really knows what Tanaka ultimately wants. Most players take the most money, but Tanaka has already won the lottery, because with the new posting system, he may take home twice as much money. Under the old system, he would have received a contract in the $60 million range, but now he could sign one in the $120 million neighborhood. So maybe he won't take the last dollar.

If he wants to be near Hollywood because his wife is a pop star, then Los Angeles makes a lot of sense. If he would like tradition, then the Bronx could be his landing spot. If he wants to be historic, then bringing a championship to Wrigley might be to his liking.

But no one knows. Tanaka tweeted on Tuesday:

z(e_e;

— 0-'/MASAHIRO TANAKA (@t_masahiro18) January 21, 2014


According to Japanese-speaking Patrick Newman, it means, "I can't decide." Great. That means something. Except, apparently, Tanaka was talking about his new avatar.

Anyway, while we wait, Buster Olney led his morning blog talking about Tanaka.

Masahiro Tanaka’s locker in the Rakuten clubhouse was close to the lockers of Casey McGehee and Andruw Jones, and on Nov. 3, 2013, the day of Game 7 of the Japan Series, McGehee and Jones watched Tanaka. They were stunned by what they saw.

The day before, in Game 6, Tanaka had thrown a staggering 160 pitches in a complete-game loss, a workload that would reduce almost all pitchers to the role of spectator for the season finale. But in the hours before Game 7, Tanaka’s body language screamed to Jones and McGehee: he intended to pitch. They couldn’t believe it.

Tanaka had been Rakuten’s leader through a regular season in which he went 24-0, but McGehee, Jones and the others in the clubhouse understood how much he had at stake in the months ahead in money and stature, given the presumption that he would sign with a Major League team.

So McGehee and Jones asked Tanaka a question through a translator: Are you sure you’re going to pitch?

“If we’re winning,” Tanaka replied, “I’m pitching.”

His decision to pitch that day was as unique as his current negotiations, which will conclude sometime in the next 72 hours. Tanaka is the first star from Japan marketed under the rules negotiated last month, with the $20 million ceiling for the posting fee and a system designed to give players from Japan more freedom. The timing of the Tanaka auction is idiosyncratic, with a month-long sprint for an elite pitching talent in the dead of winter, when most teams have usually finished their offseason work. A number of teams and free agent players are waiting for Tanaka to pick a team so the market -- frozen in place -- can finally move again.