ARLINGTON -- The Rangers, by signing outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, have shown they are willing to pursue the top free agents on the market.
Now they have six more weeks of shopping before Spring Training starts, and Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has just emerged as the top prize on the free-agent market.
Tanaka, who was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan this past season, has been posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Under the new rules, clubs have until Jan. 24 to sign him to a contract and pay a $20 million posting fee.
Because the posting fee is limited to $20 million, more clubs are expected to at least express interest in Tanaka than other Japanese stars who came before him. The Rangers paid a $51.7 million posting fee two years ago when they signed pitcher Yu Darvish.
But Tanaka, who is represented by veteran agent Casey Close, will also likely command a significant contract. Between the posting fee and the final contract, a club could still end up committing over $100 million to sign Tanaka.
That's something the Rangers will have to consider as their busy offseason continues and general manager Jon Daniels looks at a way to add pitching depth. The Rangers have already added significant payroll by adding Choo and first baseman Prince Fielder.
"We're probably comfortable where we are in terms of financial commitments," Rangers co-chairman Bob Simpson said. "Tanaka would be a tough thing. We aggressively went after Yu, who we are fortunate to have. I guess I should never say never, but at the moment, we're more interested in just rounding out our team than marquee players."
With the addition of Fielder and Choo, the Rangers could end up with an Opening Day payroll of around $130 million once they have signed the rest of the 40-man roster.
"It's in that range and maybe more next year," Simpson said before being asked if it could go higher if needed.
"I don't think so," Simpson said. "But again, never say never. You may hit a situation in the summer or something may come up that you just didn't see that isn't that much more money."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less