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Fortnight remains for Tanaka, potential suitors

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Fortnight remains for Tanaka, potential suitors play video for Fortnight remains for Tanaka, potential suitors

Like the pitcher and his entourage, the news is traveling fast.

We've all read that Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka and his agent, Casey Close, are meeting with various Major League teams to discuss a possible free-agent signing.

Some reports have it at a secret location in Los Angeles, which allows for fantastic thoughts of Hollywood back lots where the climactic scenes of spy thrillers are acted out in dark, abandoned industrial complexes with echoing metal staircases and weird machinery and cables all over the place.

What's very real, however, is the league-wide interest in Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball in 2013 and is expected to land a multi-year deal worth more than $100 million.

What's also very real is the urgency to Tanaka's current stateside stay, for his people and for MLB. His posting period ends on Jan. 24, two weeks from Friday. It's go time, and teams are going to Los Angeles to welcome the 25-year-old to the big leagues, hopefully slap their uniform on his back, and resume Hot Stove wheeling and dealing after he sets the market for the slew of starters that remain on the free-agent board, including Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Bronson Arroyo.

But while Close is keeping things close to the vest, information has begun to trickle out from the ongoing process.

On Friday, MLB.com's Ken Gurnick wrote that the Dodgers might not be as heavily involved in the bidding for Tanaka, whose signing would guarantee a $20 million posting fee for his Japanese club, as everyone originally thought.

A baseball source insisted to Gurnick that the Dodgers, who had been reported to hold the stance that they would not be outbid for Tanaka's services, are actually not as likely to get into a bidding war as they did when they signed Hyun-Jin Ryu out of South Korea last winter.

The Dodgers already have Cy Young Award winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke heading up their rotation, their payroll last year was $243 million, and they also have Ryu, starters Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley potentially coming back from surgeries, and they signed Dan Haren this offseason.

In an ESPN radio interview on Thursday, team president Stan Kasten said he "wouldn't predict it, wouldn't hang my hat on [signing Tanaka]."

So if the Dodgers don't go all-in, who will?

The White Sox already confirmed that their executive vice president, Ken Williams, their general manager, Rick Hahn, and their field manager, Robin Ventura, met with the right-hander on Thursday in Los Angeles in hopes of adding Tanaka to a starting rotation that could also include Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, John Danks and Erik Johnson.

"The meeting was exploratory in nature," Hahn said in a statement. "It was an opportunity for us to sit down with Masahiro and discuss how he potentially fits our vision for the Chicago White Sox for the next several seasons."

There were no reports of Friday meet-and-greets, but plenty of teams are believed to be lining up to talk to the right-hander. In addition to the White Sox, and, to some degree, the Dodgers, teams that have been reported as interested in Tanaka recently include the Yankees, Angels, Cubs, Blue Jays, D-backs, Indians, Twins, Mariners and Red Sox, and more could be on the way.

One interesting tidbit appeared Friday in the form of a tweet from San Francisco Chronicle national baseball writer John Shea, who wrote that he heard Tanaka prefers Los Angeles, Boston and New York as potential places to pitch and live.

The Yankees are widely believed to have identified Tanaka as their top target this offseason, even after signing top free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

The Texas Rangers could be a late addition to the sweepstakes after Friday's news that left-hander Derek Holland would miss the opening of the 2014 season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery following a fall at his home.

Otherwise, all was quiet on the Tanaka front as Friday night went into the weekend and the rest of the baseball world waited.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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