Masahiro Tanaka Yankees Rumors: Angels Did Not Meet With Japanese Ace, Alex Rodriguez Suspension Puts 'New York' In Lead? [VIDEO]

Raimundo Ortiz
By Raimundo Ortiz @AroundtheMundo
on Jan 14, 2014 08:52 AM EST
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Masahiro Tanaka
Rakuten Golden Eagles SP Masahiro Tanaka. (Photo : Reuters)

While most of the baseball world has shifted its focus to Alex Rodriguez's battle with MLB over a 162-game suspension for repeated use of performance enhancing drugs, the top pitcher on the free agent market is still a free man.

Masahiro Tanaka is available to meet with MLB teams, with the New York Yankees looming as the frontrunner for his services. The Los Angeles Angels, who had some pitching issues in 2013, were rumored to be in the running but have yet to meet with him.

"We did not meet with Tanaka," said Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto. "We were not scheduled to meet with him."

When asked whether the Angels will be pursuing the next sensation from Japan, he was not revealing his hand. "Nothing more than that. I'm not going to walk through any details. I'm not going to say we're in or out. I'm not going to comment one way or another."

While their pitching wasn't up to snuff, and hurt their playoff hopes despite an MVP-caliber season from outfielder Mike Trout, they addressed their rotation by acquiring young starters Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs.

"We do like our pitching staff and the depth we've been able to come up with," Dipoto said. "We know there is some uncertainty with a handful of young pitchers as they learn the league, but we believe in their ability.

"The year Hector had last year was pretty good. The second-half surge we saw from Richards was very encouraging. Skaggs is a 22-year-old who has done what he can in the minor leagues, and we believe he's ready for opportunity."

The Yankees have less certainty in their rotation, with CC Sabathia having his worst season in years in 2013 and Hiroki Kuroda advancing in age. Questions about whether signing Tanaka would interfere with Yankees ownership's desire to have a payroll under $189 million have been answered, as A-Rod's $25 million is off the books for now thanks to MLB arbitrator Frederic Horowitz's ruling.

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