07:35 AM ET 01.16 | On Wednesday, Hal Steinbrenner said he has spoken recently with Casey Close, the agent for Masahiro Tanaka, to express the Yankees' interest, and he knows he's not alone. "I think a lot of teams are interested," Steinbrenner, the Yankees' managing general partner, said at the Major League Baseball quarterly owners meetings. "This is a great, young pitcher. I'm sure he'll come here and do great things with someone. We certainly have an interest. I believe we need another starter. But we'll see what happens." Close, who also represents Yankeescaptain Derek Jeter, has ordered clubs to maintain virtual radio silence; Steinbrenner wouldn't even address the question of whether Yankees officials met with Tanaka during his visit to the United States last week.
07:34 AM ET 01.16 | Given Clayton Kershaw's deal and a willingness to take on more salary, clearly, Los Angeles is playing on a different financial field. The Dodgers likely will zoom past $250 million if they sign [Masahiro Tanaka]. Kershaw will be their fifth $20 million a year player, joining Greinke, Adrian Gonzalez,Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford. Tanaka would make six. Hanley Ramirez could make seven, if the Dodgers sign him to an extension. But who's counting? The Dodgers treat the luxury-tax threshold the way teenage drivers treat yellow caution lights -- they barely note the warning, then floor it. ... The threshold is rising from $178 million to $189 million, but the Dodgers' payroll likely will rise in kind. And, as a second-time offender, theDodgers will be taxed at a rate of 30 percent.
07:33 AM ET 01.16 | Perhaps this is as close as a crossed "T" or a dotted "I." At last, approval of expanded instant replay in baseball is imminent. Major League Baseball is "very close" to formal agreements on replay with the MLB Players Association and World Umpires Association, sources told FOX Sports Wednesday evening. The timing of that progress is important, with MLB owners set to vote on rule changes associated with the replay expansion during their quarterly meeting here Thursday. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark told FOX Sports last weekend that the union was still "working through some of the issues" raised by the replay expansion. But MLB and the union have made progress in recent days, to the point that the revised MLB proposal revealed after Thursday's meeting is likely to have backing from the union.
07:32 AM ET 01.16 | Credit reliever Tommy Hunter for taking advantage of the circumstances. In the midst of the fallout from the Baltimore Orioles' trade of closer Jim Johnson last month, manager Buck Showalter received a comforting text message from [Hunter]. The message from Hunter, one of the club's top set-up men last season, was clear: If you need me to be the closer, I'm ready. "I don't think I said it that way," Hunter joked Tuesday while recalling the message. "I think I said, 'I want the (damn) job.'" ... At the time, Hunter was a secondary option for the ninth. The Orioles would prefer to keep him in the eighth inning but with less than a month until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, it's almost inevitable that Hunter will be the leading candidate to assume the closer job.
07:32 AM ET 01.16 | The franchise is doing its part. Despite all efforts to fight it -- trading for Prince Fielder, signing Shin Soo Choo, lowering ticket prices -- the Texas Rangers are dealing with a much bigger issue other than deciding the No. 2 starter, which is going to haunt this franchise. The Curse of Nolan Ryan has shape-shifted into the form of [Derek Holland's] boxer, which may as well have been a billy goat. Time to get real. When the Rangersmessed with Nolan, they tempted the baseball gods, a palindrome for dogs. Holland did not just trip on Wrigley by accident. ... [Holland's] my-dog-ruined-my-season sounds just stupid enough to believe. This is not a coincidence, and there is nothing RangersGM Jon Daniels or co-owners Bob Simpson and Ray Davis can do about it. Baseball curses are no joke.