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Race for Tanaka reportedly down to four teams

Cubs, White Sox, Yankees and Dodgers considered front-runners as wait continues

Masahiro Tanaka hasn't thrown a pitch in a Major League game, and already he knows how to send the masses into a collective twirl.

Early on Tuesday, three days before Friday's 5 p.m. ET deadline for him to sign with a team and complete a physical or remain in his home country of Japan, the 25-year-old right-hander got people talking by reportedly tweeting, "I can't decide."

Turned out he wasn't agonizing (publicly, at least) over whether to join the Yankees or Cubs or Dodgers or White Sox or Blue Jays or Indians or Twins or Angels or Mariners or some other team.

He was, apparently, fretting over an all-important change in his Twitter avatar.

So nothing was remotely official, and as long as Tanaka and his agent, Casey Close, weren't revealing anything, however, the rumors kept flying.

One place that no longer looms as a destination for Tanaka is Arizona. On Wednesday, a source said that the D-backs are no longer in the running for the services of the pitcher. Whether that meant Tanaka has decided on a destination was unclear.

Early Tuesday there was news that a decision was imminent and would happen before Friday because of the need to have a physical done before the deadline. But Ken Rosenthal of pointed out that Tanaka had a physical done on Jan. 9 at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic during his visit to Los Angeles and that teams could opt to perform their own physicals on the pitcher before making his signing official anyway.

Reports of offers on the table for Tanaka began to surface Tuesday, too, with Bruce Levine of tweeting that the clubs that have bid on Tanaka are "in for at least 6 or 7 years" and for an average of at least $20 million per year. The winning team must also pay the $20 million posting fee to Tanaka's former club, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, for whom the right-hander went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA during last year's regular season.

Later Tuesday, reports indicated that the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox and D-backs were viewed as finalists for the pitcher's services, which fell in line with what Nikkan Sports had written earlier in the week when the Japanese newspaper reported that the sweepstakes was down to a quintet of teams.

A few hours later, rumors popped up that the bidding was down to the Cubs and Yankees and that the Cubs' offer was much greater than that of every other team that has entered the pursuit. But those were just rumors.

And to make it even more confusing, on Tuesday afternoon, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane confirmed that his team is interested in Tanaka, although he didn't elaborate on whether Tanaka had reciprocated the interest.

Meanwhile, Tanaka seems to be having a good time biding his time. The Japanese newspaper Sports Hochi reported on Tuesday that Tanaka worked out and did not say anything about his situation with MLB.

In other words, the wait continues.

Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.