PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks appear ready to open the checkbook for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, the most coveted free agent on the market this winter.
Japanese newspaper Nikkan Sports reported Saturday that the D-backs have offered Tanaka a six-year deal worth 10.5 billion yen, roughly $106 million. The paper also said the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs and White Sox have made offers in that same range, and those teams could be emerging as Tanaka’s final five. No contract length or terms had previously surfaced.
Tanaka has until Friday to pick a major league team, which also must pay the Rakuten Golden Eagles a $20 million posting fee. Tanaka does not have to accept an offer, but it appears a foregone conclusion.
If the reported figure is accurate, it would be the largest contract in Diamondbacks history. But they have not been shy about their interest in Tanaka since the winter meetings, when team president/CEO Derrick Hall said Arizona would make a bid.
The Diamondbacks had no comment on the report, in deference to the wishes of Tanaka and his agent, Casey Close, who have asked teams not to publicly discuss the process.
Tanaka, 25, was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for Rakuten last season with an 0.93 WHIP in 212 innings.
Miguel Montero signed the biggest contract in Arizona franchise history in 2012, a five-year extension worth $60 million. Randy Johnson signed a five-year deal worth $52.4 million when he joined the D-backs as a free agent in 1999, and Justin Upton signed a $51.25 million extension in 2010.
The Diamondbacks budgeted for Tanaka and have said since the winter meetings that they could have the highest payroll in team history in 2014. They spent $103 million in 2002, their only season in nine figures, but appear willing to go as high as $105 million-$110 million this season. They have about $85 million committed toward salary in 2014, with outfielders Mark Trumbo and Gerardo Parra the only remaining arbitration-eligible players.
The D-backs also have a negotiating chip that none of Tanaka’s other suitors have in former Rakuten teammate Rick Short, who is a scout in the organization. Short played the final four years of his professional career in Japan, the last three with Rakuten. Short had 63 doubles, 11 homers and 119 RBIs playing behind Tanaka from 2007-09, when Tanaka was breaking in.
Even after the Dodgers signed Clayton Kershaw to a seven-year, $215 million contract on Wednesday, Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti told ESPN that he had talks with Close nearly every day last week.