It has been reported Tanaka will meet with Cubs and ChiSox in coming days. An official for an NL team told me Tanaka is in Chicago now. — David Waldstein (@DavidWaldstein) January 9, 2014
After a delayed back-and-forth between MLB and NPB to get the new posting rules put in place and a few weeks of waffling by the Rakuten Golden Eagles before they finally decided to post him, Masahiro Tanaka has finally come to the United States to start the meat and potatoes of his free agent courtship and contract negotiations. According to David Waldstein's tweet above, he's in Chicago right now and is expected to meet with both the Cubs and White Sox before presumably jetting off to other stops around the country to meet with other potential suitors.
There's been no report yet on exactly what his future travel plans are and in what order he'll meet with other teams, but obviously the Yankees are going to fall somewhere on that schedule. For as long as they've been scouting Tanaka, the Bomber front office has to be chomping at the bit to finally get the chance to sit down and talk with the man who's been their #1, or at least #1A behind Cano, target since the start of the offseason.
The big question now becomes how much money will it take to land Tanaka? $100 million was a good rough starting point once the new posting fee rules were explained, and I've seen that number rise to as high as $150 mil in some discussions. Considering it took a total of $107.7 million to land Yu Darvish, who was also 25 when he was posted and has done pretty darn well for himself since coming over, $120 million seems like a more accurate starting point for Tanaka now that we know who the major players are. It's my belief that the Yankees are still the favorites to sign him based on the work they've put in scouting him and the big bankroll they have, but the Mariners, Cubs, and Dodgers all have money to spend and all have various reasons for wanting Tanaka and perks they can offer as well.
The window to negotiate a deal with Tanaka closes in 15 days, so we're in for a frantic and exciting next couple of weeks on this front. The Yankees have slowed the rest of their offseason activity to a crawl since the holidays, but now that Tanaka has arrived in the US expect them to stay full speed ahead when it comes to signing him. He's the last key piece to their offseason puzzle and if they're able to put him into place the remainder of the offseason becomes a little less stressful.
For more on Tanaka, check out Mike Axisa's monster profile piece on him at RAB here and also IIATMS/TYA's own Michael Eder's 2-part PITCHf/x analysis. Part I is here and Part II, aka "GIF City", is here.
** UPDATE 9:50 AM- Apparently Tanaka traveled to Los Angeles yesterday instead of Chicago due to the weather. Whatever, he's still in the US and that's all that matters. **