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Dodgers not expected to make huge push for Tanaka

With loaded rotation and development goals, LA unlikely to outbid all suitors

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers aren't nearly as likely to engage in a bidding war for Japanese free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka as they were a year ago when they landed Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Although reports have surfaced that the Dodgers will try to outspend all clubs to get Tanaka, one baseball source insists that's not the case, in part because it isn't clear to the club where Tanaka would slot into an already loaded starting rotation headed by Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

Tanaka, 25, has gone 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA in seven seasons in Japan -- including 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA during last year's regular season -- and is expected to fetch a contract in the $100 million range, in addition to the expected $20 million posting fee. He was posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles in December and has until Jan. 24 to reach a deal. If he and agent Casey Close can't work out an agreement, Tanaka will return to Japan to play next year.

Tanaka arrived in the United States this week to have a physical exam and meet with as many as a dozen interested clubs, including the Dodgers. If his decision comes down to the highest financial offer, however, it probably won't come from the Dodgers, the source indicated.

The club has been restrained in its approach with Tanaka. In an ESPN Radio interview Thursday, president Stan Kasten said he "wouldn't predict it, wouldn't hang my hat on [signing Tanaka]," consistent with his Winter Meetings comment that "it wouldn't surprise me if we went the winter without a huge move."

Earlier this week, general manager Ned Colletti said he had been in contact with Close, who also is one of Kershaw's representatives.

"They're in a feeling-out process," Colletti said. "They're trying to learn a lot about different cities, different markets, different teams, how teams are constructed, how teams are going forward. It's a big decision for the player, too. So we've had those types of conversations, and we'll continue and see how it goes."

Last winter, the Dodgers were clear in their intentions to sign Greinke and Ryu. This winter, the club also has added former All-Star Dan Haren with a one-year contract. Josh Beckett is expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training after surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome and Chad Billingsley is expected back at midseason from Tommy John surgery.

In addition, the club has invested heavily in pitching in recent Drafts, and the signing of Tanaka would impede management's stated goal of developing more players internally. Young starters closest to the Major Leagues, based on their participation in this week's Player Development Camp, are Zack Lee, Ross Stripling, Matt Magill and Chris Reed.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for

Los Angeles Dodgers