We're entering the homestretch of the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes, and the White Sox have yet to excuse themselves from the proceedings.
According to Nikkan Sports, the Sox were one of five teams to submit a formal offer to Tanaka -- the others being the Yankees, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Cubs. The Mariners and Angels are two notable omissions, but because it's a translation, it's difficult to determine if they backed out, or they're just not confirmed yet.
Whether the field is five teams or eight teams, the Sox remain a longshot. Still, it's notable that they've kept themselves in the thick of things, since it required the thickest offer they've ever made to a pitcher -- even if we don't know exactly what it is.
The translation of the Nikkan report -- and MLB Trade Rumors' interpretation of it -- said that almost all the teams made an offer of at least six years and $100 million, which could mean the White Sox only offered five years and/or eight figures. Either way, it's uncharted investment territory. The Sox probably wouldn't bother submitting an official offer under the worth of John Danks' contract ($65 million) or Jose Abreu's ($68 million), because that would be a waste of everybody's time. And even then, the $20 million posting fee puts any reasonable eight-figure Tanaka offer into nine figures, anyway.
But let's say the White Sox are one of the six/$100M clubs. That might not be the richest contract the Sox ever considered, because they did pursue Alex Rodriguez after the 2000 season, when 10 years and $200 million was the anticipated going rate. For pitchers, though, a six-year offer would be unprecedented, at least as far as any of us know.
The Sox have been historically averse to long-term contracts for free-agent pitchers, but they have softened over the last several years. They used to have a hard three-year limit, but that line of demarcation was blurred by a four-year offer to Bartolo Colon (he signed with the Angels), breached by a four-year contract for Mark Buehrle, and thoroughly defiled by a four-year commitment to Scott Linebrink.
These four-year thoughts and actions paved the way for a five-year deal for John Danks. That's the White Sox's only known five-year offer to a pitcher, and given how unwise it looks in hindsight, it wouldn't shock me if they were the lone team to refrain from offering Tanaka a sixth year.
No matter the length of the contract, we can infer from Kenny Williams that the Sox won't be paying the most money.
This might come as a shock to most considering the White Sox lost 99 games last season and don’t seem to have the available funds to match the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers. However, after meeting with him face-to-face and presenting their case, Williams believes they left an impression with Tanaka, who apparently isn’t chasing the almighty dollar.
"We don’t believe that money will be the biggest factor, so we’re not going to give up until someone tells us ‘no,’" Williams said Thursday to Comcast SportsNet.
Emphasis mine, because I'll believe that when I see it. Top-of-the-market free agents seldom turn down the highest offer. Look at Abreu -- for all the talk about the Sox's history of effectively incorporating Cuban talent, it apparently didn't save them any money. While Shingo Takatsu and Tadahito Iguchi spent successful years in Chicago, I don't see how their stories from seven to 10 years ago would have more pull than two active players did for Abreu.
While their pursuit may have limitations, I believe the Sox are taking the proceedings seriously. It wouldn't do them any good to half-ass it at this point, not with the reported interest levels from the Diamondbacks and the Cubs.
At the same time, I'm guessing the Sox have secondary rewards in mind, should they lose out on Tanaka. If Chris Sale's excitement at the prospect of pitching with Tanaka is any indication...
Hahn's reshaping moves have impressed Sale, who would be even more ecstatic if the team added "the real deal" that is Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. On the flip side, Sale has great confidence in the present White Sox staff assembled with "no slouches."
...the incumbent players probably like knowing the front office doesn't want to skimp on talent. Likewise, the Sox have repeatedly emphasized their desire to make the transition as quick and interesting as possible, and gunning for Tanaka is another way to do that.
We'll have a resolution on this story by the end of the week. Tanaka has to make his decision by 4 p.m. on Friday, and there's an idea that he'd like to decide a couple days early, in order to undergo the physical and other necessary procedures with the winning team before the deadline passes. Coincidentally, SoxFest opens at 4 p.m. Friday, so Williams and/or Rick Hahn will have ample opportunity to comment on it throughout the weekend, however it turns out.