Masahiro Tanaka rumors: the Texas Rangers are doing significant background work on Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, per Jeff Passan on Twitter:
Rangers doing significant background work on Masahiro Tanaka. Have room for one significant expenditure. May slow movement on Shin-Soo Choo.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 18, 2013
So, a couple of different things noteworthy here.
First, it remains to be seen whether Tanaka is even posted. He has supposedly requested that he be posted, but it is up to his team in Japan to decide whether or not they will post him.
Secondly, the Rangers are an organization that is going to do a lot of legwork on a lot of players. They are, no doubt, planning on at least talking to Tanaka, and the background work is going to be part of their due diligence. I'm sure they are interested, and will make a serious push, but I don't know that I'd read a ton into their intentions regarding Tanaka because they are doing background work.
No, what is more interesting to me is the second part of the tweet. While the reaction from may be, "The Ranger front office never leaks, this must be coming from somewhere else, etc. etc. etc.," Passan is someone who, in the past, has broken stories about the Rangers, and who seems to have good sources in the organization.
So it makes me wonder if the organization isn't leaking this info to Passan because they want this info to get out. And in particular, they want the story to be out there that maybe they are going to back off on Shin-Soo Choo, maybe will be taking dollars off what they are willing to offer, if Choo doesn't make a decision soon.
Remember, the conventional wisdom has it that Texas will sign either Choo or Nelson Cruz, and Seattle will sign the other. But Jon Paul Morosi just tweeted that the M's are close to a major league deal with Franklin Gutierrez. Adding Gutierrez to a mix that includes Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, Michael Saunders, and Dustin Ackley in the OF/1B/DH mix. Even if Montero has fallen out of grace and Smoak is traded, adding Gutierrez potentially could lessen Seattle's interest in one of the remaining outfielders.
What's particularly telling to me is Passan saying that the Rangers have enough money left for "one significant expenditure." So with Seattle now less in need of an outfielder, the Rangers could be telling Choo, and Cruz as well for that matter, that the Rangers are ready to make a deal, but if the player isn't ready to commit, the Rangers are planning on moving on, and the money they have on the table now may not be there in three weeks.
In fact, while Passan references Choo, this could be directed more towards Cruz. The stories out there indicate that Cruz wants to return to Texas, but wants more than they have on the table. Choo, it sounds like, is going to take the biggest deal out there. Cruz, it seems, is more flexible on the money, and it doesn't sound like he wants to go to Seattle, where righthanded power hitters go to die. This could be the Rangers' way to send a message to Cruz that, if he wants to come back to Texas, he needs to decide now, or risk not being able to come back.
So it will be interesting to see how things play out in the Choo and Cruz market in the next few days. Ultimately, I think the Rangers have significant interest in Choo, have significant interest in Cruz, and have significant interest in Tanaka. But as always, that significant interest is tempered by a desire to be fiscally disciplined. I expect the Rangers to land one of these three players, but I wouldn't be surprised if they pass on all three because the price is simply more than they think is worthwhile.
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