If there's baseball writing to be done this week, it's bound to be on one of two things—and there's no way I'm writing about the Hall of Fame. We all need another HoF commentary piece like the Mariners need another 1B/DH. No, we're talking about a position where the Mariners do have a need, and the player who could best fill it: Masahiro Tanaka.
Reports come in today, via Jon Heyman, that Tanaka began holding meetings yesterday, and he's expected to have discussions with "a dozen or so" organizations by tomorrow.
It isn't known which other teams have a meeting planned besides the two Los Angeles teams, the two Chicago teams, the Yankees and Diamondbacks.
It is believed Tanaka, with agent Casey Close there, may have as many as five or six meetings planned per day, and the meetings are definitely continuing today.
Yes, you read that correctly, no mention of the Mariners. And no, you shouldn't care.
The Mariners will be in on Tanaka, and the only news you should take from this most recent report is "Oh thank God, at least it's started," because there isn't anything overly meaningful here. This is how it was going to go down, a bunch of meetings with a bunch of teams.
I suppose one could attempt to make something of Tanaka holding meetings in the home city of two of the Mariners' competitors in this chase, but Casey Close's Excel Sports Marketing has an office there (though headquartered in New York), it's an easier flight—and it's going to be 70 and sunny there today and tomorrow.
It will be interesting to see, however, if the Mariners aren't included among Tanaka's Los Angeles meetings, as it could indicate a more intimate and formal meeting is set to take place up here in Seattle. Tanaka is not going to sign this week down in Los Angeles, as this still has a very long way to go, and he will certainly travel to at least a couple cities before choosing his final destination.
What I hope, though, is that these initial meetings begin to shake some things loose. I wouldn't expect much action from the Mariners between now and when Tanaka signs—likely still the full two weeks out—but as teams meet with Tanaka, a market will begin to form and some teams will respectfully bow out before Tanaka makes his final decision.
You may see teams who would like to upgrade their pitching, but quickly see they're nowhere close to being able to afford Tanaka (or aren't a viable destination for other reasons), begin to look at the other options before other teams decide to do the same. The pitching market, and the remaining free agent class as a whole, won't shake loose until Tanaka is signed but it wouldn't be surprising to see a team make a serious run at locking up one of the three "plan B" options before everyone else who doesn't sign Tanaka turns to them.
But, ultimately, not much has changed here—just that the true pursuit of Mā-kun has finally begun. Now, the media leaks and shoddily-sourced articles will begin to come out in force. Just like with this story, I wouldn't make too much of it. The Mariners will be there in the end. There's no certainty they'll sign him, but they have as good a chance as anyone. And right now, don't let anything make you think otherwise.