The Dodgers, who are looking to bolster their starting pitching with someone… (Charles Krupa / Kyodo News…)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Will the Dodgers add David Price or Masahiro Tanaka to a rotation that already includes Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu?
Don't count on it.
Price figures to be shopped this winter by the Tampa Bay Rays, but the Dodgers might not have the quality of prospects necessary to land him. Tanaka soon could be auctioned by the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan, but the Dodgers might not make a serious push to sign him.
Long before the start of the winter meetings Monday, the Dodgers alerted the Rays of their interest in Price. The Dodgers told the Rays to contact them if they saw a potential fit, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke under the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.
Price, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2012, won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season. Price's trade value will decrease as the left-hander moves closer to free agency and the small-market Rays can't afford to sign him to a contract extension.
The Rays traded James Shields to the Kansas City Royals last year under similar circumstances. The return included top outfield prospect Wil Myers, who hit .293 with 13 home runs and 53 runs batted in in 88 major league games and was voted the AL rookie of the year.
The Rays are presumably looking for a comparable return for Price.
But there is no Myers in the Dodgers' minor league system. The players with the highest ceilings might be a couple of teenagers: 19-year-old infielder Corey Seager and 17-year-old left-hander Julio Urias.
Furthermore, trading three or four prospects would go against the Dodgers' frequently stated ambition of rebuilding a farm system that was depleted under the McCourt ownership.
There could be a way for the Dodgers to land Price without gutting their farm system: Send the Rays one of their high-profile surplus outfielders, agree to cover a significant part of what remains of his contract and throw in a prospect or two.
If that sounds like a longshot, it's because it probably is.
As for Tanaka, the Dodgers' interest in him appears lukewarm.
The Dodgers are interested in the Japanese right-hander, but won't take a win-at-all-costs approach in their pursuit of him, according to two people familiar with the team's thinking. One high-ranking Dodgers official predicted Tanaka would end up with the New York Yankees if he comes to the United States.
There's no guarantee Tanaka will even be made available. Under a new agreement between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball, the most the Golden Eagles could be paid for Tanaka's rights is $20 million.
Team President Yozo Tachibana said that isn't enough. The Nippon Ham Fighters were paid $51.7 million for Yu Darvish's rights two years ago. Darvish posted on his Twitter account that he didn't think the Golden Eagles could part ways with Tanaka for only $20 million.
Golden Eagles owner Hiroshi Mikitani told Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons last week that he doesn't intend to auction Tanaka. In that case, Tanaka would have to wait until he is an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season.
Tanaka's future probably won't be decided this week. Tachibana is set to arrive at the winter meetings Tuesday evening and won't meet with Tanaka to discuss his situation until some time after Dec. 15, according to Japanese news reports.