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Tanaka back in Japan after visit with major league clubs

Kyodo

Ace right-hander Masahiro Tanaka returned to Japan Saturday from a short visit with major league clubs in the Los Angeles area.

The 25-year-old Tanaka presumably has met, along with his agent Casey Close, a number of big league teams who have shown interest in pursuing him through the new posting system. He whisked past reporters at Narita airport without speaking.

Tanaka arrived in the United States on Wednesday and underwent a medical exam, an apparent effort to alleviate any concerns of work overload from his time with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. ESPN.com reported on Thursday that Tanaka met with officials from the Chicago White Sox.

Close has been in close contact with Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, and it is believed that at least 10 teams will throw their hats in the bidding war for Tanaka.

In addition to the Dodgers and White Sox, the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros are reportedly interested in Tanaka, according to ESPN.com.

According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox, Yankees and Diamondbacks are believed to be among the teams to have already met with Tanaka or at least planned to meet him.

It is expected Tanaka will sign a deal worth more than $100 million because of the intense interest he is attracting.

The team he signs with will also be required to pay the release fee demanded by Rakuten, which could be as high as $20 million.

Tigers flamethrower Justin Verlander, the 2011 Cy Young Award winner who signed a seven-year, $180 million deal with Detroit, is the highest paid pitcher in the majors, followed by Mariners ace Felix Hernandez who has a seven-year, $175 million deal.

The deadline to get a deal done is Jan. 24 at 5 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (Jan. 25 at 7 a.m., Japan time). If no deal is reached, Tanaka will return to the Eagles.

Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season to help the Eagles to their first Pacific League pennant and Japan Series championship.