KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Any Royals fans still fantasizing about the Royals getting in on the sweepstakes for Japanese superstar pitcher Masahiro Tanaka may want to adjust those dreams.
Club officials never truly believed Tanaka was in their financial reach — Tanaka is seeking in excess of $100 million — even though the posting system (the money that goes to Tanaka’s former team) is in the reasonable $20 million range.
General manager Dayton Moore continues to say the right things, and he reiterated to me Thursday regarding Tanaka, "We’re always in the market for good pitching."
But while there have been exceptions (Norichika Aoki signing with Milwaukee two years ago), luring a Japanese player to a small market is not an easy sell.
"It happens, but normally it is easier if the player has already been in the major leagues and in the States a few years," a source close to the situation said. "But for a first-time player out of Japan, a big star, they’re not likely to be interested in a small market that might not have as big of an Asian community or presence."
CBSSports.com reported Thursday that the Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, Yankees and Diamondbacks are likely the top suitors for Tanaka’s services.
The other persistent rumor circling the Royals lately is their alleged interest in free agent designated hitter/first baseman Kendrys Morales.
Jim Duquette of mlb.com recently tweeted that the Royals had emerged as a "sleeper" candidate for Morales. Such a signing would allow the Royals to trade Billy Butler, perhaps for another starting pitcher.
But club officials indicated that a Morales deal doesn’t seem likely.
"It really doesn’t make a lot of financial sense for us," one club official said. "Plus, giving up that first-round pick isn’t really appealing."
Morales was tendered a qualifying offer from the Mariners, which means any team that signs him would surrender a first-round pick to the Mariners.
Morales rejected the $14.1 million qualifying offer and is seeking at least a two-year deal in the $30 million range.
Replacing Butler with Morales at the DH spot would further spike the Royals’ payroll, already projected to be at a club record of over $90 million for 2014. Butler is due to make $8 million in 2014 and $12.5 million in 2015 under a team option.
"There are always going to be rumors this time of year," Moore said. "Sometimes there is some logic to some of them. Sometimes there just isn’t."
Moore indicated he didn’t see any major roster changes forthcoming between now and the time the Royals embark on spring training.
"I think this is pretty much the team we will go to spring training with," Moore said. "We’re an improved team.
"We sought an outfielder (Aoki) to upgrade our offense and we got that. We wanted to add to our starting rotation (Jason Vargas) and we did that. We wanted to improve our situation at second base (Omar Infante) and we did that. And we wanted to add a right-handed bat (Danny Valencia) to our bench and we did that."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.