Dodgers not surprised by Tanaka's choice
Starting pitching a lower priority for Colletti than filling hole at second base
LOS ANGELES -- The Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes played out pretty much the way the Dodgers expected, with the Japanese starting pitcher going to a team willing to spend much more because it had a greater need.
The Dodgers indicated during the process sincere -- but limited -- interest and are believed to have offered only a little more than $100 million, far short of the Yankees' winning bid of $155 million, plus the $20 million posting fee.
The Dodgers can even view the outcome as a push. Even though Tanaka didn't land in Los Angeles, he didn't land in Arizona either, despite a strong push by the rival D-backs, who were eager to win over a Dodgers target.
General manager Ned Colletti said Wednesday he still believes his biggest roster concern is adding an infielder, and hours later he added Chone Figgins on a Minor League deal. Michael Young, whom Colletti already traded for, had been the first choice, although Young might retire.
With all the speculation of when Matt Kemp will be ready following a serious operation on his ankle and a minor one on his shoulder, second base is the real unknown for the Dodgers. Colletti continues to say that Cuban signing Alexander Guerrero, while improving, "needs to play." That usually means "not yet ready" for the big leagues.
Figgins is no sure thing, as his game deteriorated after signing a four-year deal with Seattle in 2010. He's since been released by the Mariners and the Marlins, then sat out 2013.
Colletti is currently scouting in the Dominican Republic after a stop at Camelback Ranch in Arizona to watch the "Young Guns" pitching minicamp. While there, he saw Guerrero and journeyman Minor Leaguer Miguel Rojas working out with special assistant Jose Vizcaino. The club continues to be intrigued enough by Rojas' defensive wizardry to consider whether the rest of the lineup can carry a light-hitting run saver.
As for the starting pitching, when is Colletti ever done? He brought eight starters with guaranteed salaries to Spring Training last year and, as he is quick to point out, was looking for a ninth before April was over.
He is rumored to have kicked the tires on several free-agent starters like Bronson Arroyo that would provide cover in the first half of the season without requiring a long-term deal or Draft pick compensation, the latter cost ruling out Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana.
By the All-Star break, the Dodgers hope to have Chad Billingsley back from Tommy John surgery, with prospects like Zach Lee and Ross Stripling knocking on the door. Stephen Fife and Matt Magill also return.
The Dodgers' measured pursuit of Tanaka was less out of perceived need and more an opportunity to land a high-quality arm for an incremental upgrade. This ownership showed a year ago what it takes to rebuild a rotation in true need, as it spent more than $200 million to get Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
But this time the Dodgers were never prepared to bid wildly for what would be a No. 3 or 4 starter, as their talent evaluators were split on just how good Tanaka will be in the Major Leagues.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.