You know our stance here. We've long held that a serious pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka would be a worthwhile endeavor for the Mariners, because the circumstances all seemed to fit so nicely: the M's have demonstrated success with Japanese players, word is they're willing to spend on the right piece and Tanaka could hardly be a more ideal target.
So why, with every other suitor having challenges to overcome—just like Seattle—are the Mariners being viewed as a periphery player in the chase for the class's top free agent pitcher? Why haven't we seen that long-awaited "link"?
Well, now we have it from the New York Daily News's Roger Rubin:
"The Mariners are going to be a factor," one baseball official said. "They have a following in Japan. They enjoyed what they had when Ichiro (Suzuki) was on the team.
"They want the chance for moves like getting Cano to pay off. And they envision (Felix ) Hernandez paired with Tanaka at the top of the rotation."
Let's start with the positives.
First, though it seemed like the obvious route, it's good to see someone finally say the Mariners are indeed in "win-now" mode as they try to maximize the twilight years of Robinson Cano's prime. It only makes sense.
Second, with the story coming from New York, it's highly likely the source is someone affiliated in one fashion or another with the Yankees. That's no certainty, as "baseball official" could be about anyone, but it seems likely—and that'd be a positive if it were to be the case. If the Yankees, considered by most to be the clubhouse leader in the pursuit of Tanaka, genuinely view the Mariners as a viable threat then they probably are.
Through negotiations with Brodie Van Wagenen, Jay Z and the rest of the CAA Sports clan over Cano, it's fair to assume they have a slightly better picture of the Mariners' aggressiveness this offseason than most teams, as it may well have been relayed to them during those talks.
Then again, the source for this story may have no ties to the Yankees whatsoever. We don't know.
What's interesting to me is that the reporter for this story, Roger Rubin, has been covering more college sports as of late—and doesn't appear to have been working on the Daily News's Cano coverage. But, that's a positive, or at least neutral. Rubin has been covering college sports since baseball's offseason began as part of his regular role with the paper, but while the Daily News did have some strong reporting work in the Cano saga, they dropped the ball at a crucial juncture.
Despite the deal between the Mariners and Cano being agreed upon late Thursday, December 5th the Daily News went hard to the hoop with a report saying talks between the two camps had broken down as Howard Lincoln "exploded" when Jay Z didn't immediately accept the deal they had on the table and instead pushed for 10 years, $252 million. As the aforementioned Larry Stone piece notes, Lincoln was in Hawaii at the time. Terms of the deal between Cano and the Mariners were reported within an hour to 90 minutes of the Daily News reporting the talks had hit a snag.
In addition, and maybe I'm piling on, the paper scrubbed its original story and any sites referencing their initial false report now link to a different story. No acknowledgement, no correction—it's as if it never happened.
But it did, and if papers want to run with stories utilizing iffy reporting then they deserve reasonable amount of skepticism the next time around. Maybe not as much as if it were the same reporters, but skepticism nonetheless.
In the end, this shouldn't change your perspective on the Mariners' pursuit of Tanaka all that much. Of course they were going to pursue him, and it was likely they were going to be playing to win. Because what else would they be doing?
Yes, the Mariners are after Masahiro Tanaka. And if you want, you can feel a little bit better because it's in a newspaper.