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Report: Yankees will be 'serious players' for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka

(The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images) 24-year-old Masahiro Tanaka went 22-0 with a 1.23 in the Pacific League last year. (The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images)

The Yankees are making signing 24-year-old Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka a "priority" this offseason, the New York Post's George A. King III is reporting.

The team sent assistant general manager Billy Eppler and pro scout Don Wakamatsu to watch the right-hander pitch "extensively" this season, according to the report.

Tanaka is expected to require a posting fee of about $60 million and a five-year contract also worth $60 million, with the Red Sox, Rangers and Dodgers also interested.

Some evaluators believe Tanaka, who went 22-0 with a 1.23 ERA for the Pacific League champion Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, could be the best pitcher ever to come out of Japan.

From the report:

Based on one scout’s opinion, more than Yu Darvish, who cost the Rangers $111.7 million. The Rangers bid $60 million then signed Darvish to a six-year deal worth $51.7 million.“He is better than Darvish because he is a strike thrower,’’ the scout said. “Overall, Darvish’s stuff might be a little bit better, but this guy knows how to pitch. He is like Kuroda, he has a lot of guts. He throws four pitches but when it gets to [stone]-cutting time, it’s fastball and splitter.’’

Late in games this year Tanaka’s fastball reached 95 mph, and he features an overhand curveball that is 20 mph slower than the fastball.

The Yankees have holes in their rotation with Andy Pettitte retiring, Hiroki Kuroda hitting free agency and Michael Pineda still struggling with health issues.

To sign Tanaka, the Golden Eagles would have to accept an MLB team's bid. If the team cannot come to terms with him, he would return to his Japanese team.

The posting fee does not count toward a team's payroll.

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