The White Sox sent a trio of decision-makers to Los Angeles on Thursday to meet with Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and his representatives.
General manager Rick Hahn, executive vice president Kenny Williams and manager Robin Ventura all participated in the meeting with Tanaka, who became a free agent shortly before Christmas.
The White Sox are one of many teams expected to sit down with Tanaka, who can negotiate with any club willing to pay a $20 million posting fee earmarked for his former Japanese club, the Rakuten Eagles.
“The meeting was exploratory in nature,” Hahn said in a statement released by the team. “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.”
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman said Tanaka could meet with as many as a dozen teams, including several big-market clubs who appear willing to empty their checkbook to sign him.
Some estimates suggest Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan last season, could earn an annual salary in the $17 million range. Tanaka is 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA with 1,238 strikeouts and only 275 walks in 1,315 innings.
The right-hander is only 25 and entering his prime. He could provide the club a formidable No. 2 pitcher in the rotation behind Chris Sale for years to come.
Just like Jose Abreu, whom the White Sox officially signed in November, Tanaka is more attractive to potential clubs because those teams won’t have to forfeit a draft pick or part with players in a trade to acquire him.
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Hahn said the White Sox won’t make any further comment on the process until Tanaka makes his decision.
Teams have a 30-day window in which to negotiate with Tanaka and come to an agreement or he would remain the property of Rakuten. That window closes at 4 p.m. (CST) on Jan. 24.
Only the team who lands Tanaka has to pay the $20 million posting fee.