The Angels did not meet with Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka in Los Angeles last week, General Manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed, an indication that the team might not be a serious bidder for the 25-year-old right-hander.
Tanaka spent three days in Los Angeles and reportedly underwent a physical, the results of which were to be distributed to interested teams. He was expected to meet with as many as 12 clubs, and one Japanese publication listed the Angels, Dodgers and New York Yankees as the three favorites to land him.
“We did not meet with Tanaka,” said Dipoto, who was at a function in Iowa during the time Tanaka was in Los Angeles. “We were not scheduled to meet with him.”
Asked what, if anything, could be inferred from this, Dipoto said, “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.”
Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 earned-run average for the Rakuten Golden Eagles last season and has a 99-35 record and 2.30 ERA in seven seasons in Japan. He and agent Casey Close have until Jan. 24 to reach a deal with a club, and he is expected to command a deal well in excess of $100 million.
The Angels have about $15 million of wiggle room under the $189-million luxury tax threshold for 2014. But with Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson combining for $81.5 million in average annual salary and the team hoping to secure superstar Mike Trout to a long-term deal that will likely surpass $25 million per year, it will be very difficult to absorb another nine-figure contract.
The Angels remain interested in free-agent right-hander Matt Garza, but Dipoto also said he’d be satisfied going into spring training with a rotation of Weaver, Wilson, Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs, with Mark Mulder, Joe Blanton and Wade LeBlanc also competing for spots.
“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.”