The New York Yankees wasted no time in a pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka.

All 30 major league teams were notified that the 30-day period to sign the 25-year-old right-hander began at 5 a.m. PST Thursday, and an industry source said the Yankees have been in contact with Excel Sports Management's Casey Close, whom Tanaka recently designated as his agent.

After going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Japan Series champion Rakuten Golden Eagles last season, Tanaka is expected to command a contract worth around $100 million.

Texas, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs are also likely candidates for Tanaka, who has until Jan. 24 to sign a contract if he intends to pitch in the big leagues next season.

Under the old system, clubs submitted blind bids called posting fees, with negotiating rights going to the highest bidder. The posting fee was compensation to Japanese teams.

Under the new system, any team can enter into negotiations with a player, so long as the club consents to a $20 million fee once the player signs.

  • A person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press that free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo passed his physical and will be formally introduced by the Texas Rangers on Friday. Choo reached agreement last weekend to a $130 million, seven-year deal.

  • Paul Blair, the eight-time Gold Glove center fielder who helped the Orioles win World Series titles in 1966 and 1970, died in a Baltimore hospital. He was 69. Blair's wife Gloria said he played golf in the morning and later lost consciousness at a celebrity bowling event. Blair was with the Orioles from 1964-76. He also played for the Yankees -- winning World Series in 1977 and 1978 -- and Cincinnati.

    Soccer

    Arsenal is on top of the English Premier League heading into the second half of the season. Liverpool's stay at No. 1 lasted less than a week. Arsenal won 3-1 at West Ham behind Theo Walcott's two goals, and Liverpool lost 2-1 at Manchester City. Liverpool fell to fourth, behind No. 2 City and No. 3 Chelsea, who beat Swansea 1-0 on Boxer Day.

    Tennis

    Wimbledon champion Andy Murray lost 7-5, 6-3 to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his comeback match from a three-month injury layoff at the Mubadala Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Murray hadn't played since mid-September because of a back complaint.