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Masahiro Tanaka might be out of White Sox’ price range

Updated: January 15, 2014 4:10PM

While coveted free agent Masahiro Tanaka’s desire is to pitch in the major leagues, just where he wants to do so remains a mystery. As the Jan. 24 deadline to sign the right-hander draws nearer, the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees continue to be the best bets to sign him to a contract most think will be worth in the $100 million range over six or seven seasons.

The White Sox met with Tanaka and his representatives last week in Los Angeles. The Sox’ contingent included executive vice president Ken Williams, general manager Rick Hahn and manager Robin Ventura. Absent from the meeting was chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, which one source with close ties to the Sox suggested indicates the team’s interest in Tanaka might be more warm than hot.

While the Sox say it would be a mistake to draw a conclusion from that, Tanaka’s price tag might cool their interest if one industry source’s prediction that he will get a $140 million deal is correct. There is also a $20 million posting fee the team that signs Tanaka must pay to his Japanese team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Tanaka’s wife, Mai Satoda, is an entertainment star in Japan whose career might cause him to favor the Dodgers and Yankees. A report in Japan said the West Coast is her top choice.

The Sox, Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks are said to be very interested, despite the huge money it would take to sign someone who hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors. A major-league scout said Japanese import Yu Darvish’s success with the Texas Rangers has raised Tanaka’s stock, ‘‘but you can’t forget how quickly Dice-K [Daisuke Matsuzaka] faded with the Red Sox, and this guy has similar traits to Dice-K — not very big and a heavy workload at a young age [25].’’

Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for Rakuten last season. In seven seasons in Japan, he is 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA.

The Yankees need starting pitching more than the Dodgers, and the Mariners need more of everything to justify their $240 million signing of second baseman Robinson Cano. The Cubs also need pitching, and the Sox would have a formidable one-two punch at the top of their rotation with Chris Sale and Tanaka.

‘‘Expect a bidding war to take place, and it could get crazy,’’ an industry source said. ‘‘But will [Tanaka] just take the money or pick a place that is comfortable?’’

NOTES: The Sox opened a three-day hitting minicamp Tuesday at their spring-training base in Glendale, Ariz. The gathering was expected to give first-year hitting coach Todd Steverson and manager Robin Ventura up-close looks at new players Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson, as well as Josh Phegley and prospects Marcus Semien, Courtney Hawkins, Jared Mitchell, Trayce Thompson and Keenyn Walker.

◆The Sox signed right-hander Dylan Axerod, who made 20 starts and posted a 5.68 ERA last season, to a minor-league contract. Right-hander Brian Omogrosso, who was sidelined by an injured right elbow and was limited to 12 appearances last season, also was signed to a minor-league deal. Omogrosso had season-ending surgery Aug. 6.


Twitter: @CST_soxvan

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