MLB notes: Yankees first to the table for Tanaka

Japan's pitcher Masahiro Tanaka pitches against the Netherlands in the fifth inning at the World...

Japan's pitcher Masahiro Tanaka pitches against the Netherlands in the fifth inning at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) second round game in Tokyo March 12, 2013. (REUTERS)

SUN WIRE SERVICES

, Last Updated: 7:21 PM ET

Less than a day after bidding opened for Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka, the New York Yankees were already in contact with the 25-year-old’s agent.

According to a Newsday report, the Yankees have spoken with Casey Close, Tanaka’s agent who also happens to represent Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

A report from USA Today early Friday suggested Tanaka will earn a minimum of $17 million per season, according to team officials who are courting the Japanese hurler.

Tanaka helped Rakuten win its first Japan Series title last season. He finished 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in the 2013 regular season. He won the Eiji Sawamura Award, the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award, for the second time in three seasons.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers are believed to be competing with the Yankees for Tanaka’s services.

CHOO WANTS TITLE

The Texas Rangers say they signed South Korean outfielder Choo Shin-soo to a hefty contract for his versatility and will use him mostly as their lead-off hitter and in left field.

"My intention is to lead him off... (and) put him in left, but he also brings versatility, so you may see him in center, you might see him in right. He gives us options," Texas manager Ron Washington told reporters as Choo was officially introduced as a team member on Friday.

The free agent signed a seven-year deal worth $130 million – the second-highest contract offered to a free agent by the Rangers behind Alex Rodriguez.

Choo batted .285 for the Cincinnati Reds last season and had a .423 on-base percentage, the fourth-highest in the majors.

He joins the Rangers on the heels of the team signing slugger Prince Fielder from Detroit.

"We feel we've added two impact players in the heart of our line-up ... and at the same time held on to all our young players and actually added to that group," said general manager Jon Daniels.

Choo, 31, said he chose the Rangers for personal and professional reasons.

"Today is my dream come true," he said. "My next dream is winning World Series ring.

"I looking for winning teams. I think about my family, how comfortable staying in city. I think Texas Rangers is best fit for me, very easy to pick."

Choo made his major league debut in 2005, for the Seattle Mariners and later played for the Cleveland Indians before spending last season in Cincinnati.

BLAIR DIES AT 79

Paul Blair, among the best defensive center fielders in baseball history, died Thursday in Pikesville, Md., at 69.

His wife, Gloria Blair, told the Baltimore Sun that Paul Blair played golf Thursday morning, then collapsed during a celebrity bowling event that evening.

The newspaper reported that Blair had a stent inserted after a 2009 heart attack.

Blair earned seven Gold Gloves for defensive excellence during his career.

An Oklahoma native who attended high school in Los Angeles, Blair played 17 years in the major leagues (1964-80), the first 13 with the Baltimore Orioles. He subsequently spent parts of four seasons with the New York Yankees and part of one season with the Cincinnati Reds.

Blair was an all-star in 1969 and 1973, and he played on World Series-winning teams for Baltimore in 1966 and 1970 and then for New York in 1978.

Over 1,947 career games, Blair hit .250 with a .302 on-base percentage and a .382 slugging percentage. He hit 134 home runs, drove in 620 runs and stole 171 bases.

ANGELS AFTER MULDER?

Former all-star pitcher Mark Mulder hasn’t thrown a big-league pitch since 2008.

Two years before that, he suffered a torn rotator cuff, which saw him in and out of the bullpen until he abruptly retired in 2010.

Now, the Los Angeles Angels are reportedly the frontrunners to give the former 20-game winner another chance.

The Boston Globe reported Friday that the 36-year-old could be offered an incentive-laden deal that would see the one-time Oakland A’s ace return to the mound.

Over nine major-league seasons, Mulder accumulated a 103-60 record with a 4.18 ERA and 834 strikeouts.

He was in contention for the American League Cy Young Award when he went 21-8 in 2001.

Mulder, an analyst with ESPN since 2011, recently worked out for a handful of teams in Arizona.

BRIEFLY: Free agent outfielder Raul Ibanez officially agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Angels on a one-year, $2.75 million deal after passing a physical on Friday, the Orange County Register reported.

 


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