Expect Theo and Jed to Pull Out All the Stops To Land Tanaka

An important note here before we start: Yes, we know money is king and that will be the primary factor in Masahiro Tanaka's decision.  But history has shown that many times it isn't the only factor. Recently we talked about a creative way to structure a deal to make it more difficult for some teams to match, but sometimes the team, the city, and personal touches can and have played a role in the final decision.

Yesterday I posted an article from Sanspro that a friend of Cubs Den reader Eddie was nice enough to translate for us. In that article, I posted the first half, but the second half of that article posted some of the more creative ways teams are trying to lure Tanaka.

The article relayed some interesting proposals...

Those proposals include (1) golf club memberships for Tanaka and his wife, (2) seven day break during the Japanese Golden Week [which is during the first week of May], (3) infinite amount of name cards, (4) set a toilet seat with heating functions in the club house, (5) the Ace Number “1” for his jersey, (6) free parking space. Considering that the toilet seats with heating functions are not as widely used in the US as they are in Japan, these proposals show that some teams are trying to show an attempt to provide a meticulous “hospitality” to allure Tanaka.

It may sound odd but sometimes it's the so-called little things that matter.

Creative little perks aside, part of the recruiting process involves building a personal relationship and adding personal touches. The Cubs front office is no stranger to doing the little things to help foster that essential early bond between player and organization.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer helped lure Curt Schilling to Boston when the Yankees were thought to be the heavy favorites. They did it by getting to understand the person and the family behind the ballplayer. For example, Epstein understood that Schilling was a preparedness freak. He understood and used statistics. Epstein appealed to that part of him by sending information about how the Red Sox used technology, scouting, and analytics.

"This is how we can help you prepare", said Epstein.

Apparently, it hit the bulls-eye. Schilling enthusiastically poured through the information. It was a perfect match.

Schilling was blown away by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer

"[Epstein] did it right and in a way that I respected and made me want to play for him. And I didn't feel Jed was any different. These were very mature, very respectful and very, very astute guys."

They even appealed to the legacy Schilling could leave behind in Boston. He was 37, after all, and nearing the end of his baseball career. They talked about then opportunity to add the finishing touches on a potential Hall of Fame career by helping make history in Boston. In a baseball town like Boston starving for a championship, Schilling had the chance to be a part of something legendary.

Of course, that's exactly what he went on to do in 2004. He was the starting pitcher for Game 6 of the ACLS -- a key game in that Boston had rallied to cut the series lead down to 3-2 after they had been down 3-0. Schilling famously pitched through a torn tendon sheath in his right ankle, bloodying his sock in the process and creating one of the most memorable images in baseball history.

But it wasn't just baseball. The front office new about Schilling's wife Shonda's desire to be active in the community and brought information on the school systems and opportunities on how to get involved in the community. They even brought the kind of brownies they liked.

"Their preparedness was what won us over," Shonda said. "We were so blown away by the amount of work they had done to prove to us that this was the best choice for us."

In short, they thought of everything.

That sort of preparation and research has continued with the Cubs, most notably when they were able to sign Jorge Soler, in part because they first signed his junior national teammate Yasiel Balaguert and later, his good friend LHP Gerardo Concepcion. The Cubs appealed to recent IFA Eloy Jimenez because they knew he was a huge fan of Sammy Sosa.

We can sometimes get cynical about money being the only factor in free agent decisions, but the truth is that both Epstein and Hoyer have been successful recruiting the person as well as the ballplayer.

I expect no less in their pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka.  Win or lose, you can be sure the Cubs will be prepared.  They'll sell him on the plan.  They'll make it comfortable for him. In short, they'll think of everything and everyone involved with Tanaka and put out all the stops to convince him that Chicago is where he and his family want to be.


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  • fb_avatar

    Excellent post. Original and encouraging.

  • In reply to Theo Einstein:

    Thanks. I think when we look at it from the outside it just looks like an open auction, but there's a lot that goes into luring free agents. I'm not saying it's a substitute for a top financial offer, but I think Theo and Jed understand how important building that personal relationship can be. In the end they're not just ballplayers. You have to appeal to them as people, often with families who like everyone else, have very personal needs and preferences.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Chicago is a city like no other. The city itself will be an easy sell.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Agreed. Used to work as a volunteer for Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and we used to get people come in from all over the world and they always say how much they love Chicago -- even more so than NY. Of course that may be because of architecture since that's what most of the visitors came to see, but many liked how much friendlier the people are here.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Anyone have an idea on what the current payroll level is at - or a ballpark figure - with all who are signed or who will go through arbitration. Just trying to get an idea on where things stand as far as this payroll flexibility that Theo was harping on a few weeks ago. Also with whatever figure amount is left compared to what was spent last year ($106 million I believe), is the $25 million or so extra that is coming in from the TV revenue sharing deal expected to be added on top of that? So say, hypothetically, current salary commitments (including expected arbitration figures) are $60 million, then just to match the level of last year there would be $46 million or so left, but with that $25-30 million more that means about $70-$75 million is waiting to be spent, just for 2014. That's a lot of flexibility.

  • In reply to Michael Standaert:

    Doesn't include arb or pre-arb players salaries (Samardzija, Wood, Schierholtz, Russell, Barney, Rondon, Vizcaino, W.Castillo, etc.) So it's not all that helpful...

    11 total players, $54,534,524 total salary -
    Alfonso Soriano $14,000,000
    Edwin Jackson $13,000,000
    Starlin Castro $5,857,143
    Carlos Villanueva $5,000,000
    Kyuji Fujikawa $4,500,000
    Jose Veras $3,850,000
    Jorge Soler $2,666,667
    Anthony Rizzo $1,535,714
    Ryan Sweeney $1,500,000
    Wesley Wright $1,425,000
    Gerardo Concepcion $1,200,000


  • fb_avatar

    Its good to have the smartest guys in the room
    when a scenario like this comes to pass.

    although I think Casman and Colletti will do the same.

  • In reply to deport soriano com:

    Yes it is. I don't know Cashman or Coletti but I'll take our chances with our guys. Not just smart but they're just plain good, conscientious people.

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    I think Theo and Jed are also like great Chess or Go players. They're always thinking several moves ahead. They knew last year when they signed Fujikawa that Tanaka's posting was coming up, and one way to make Tanaka more comfortable is to already have people in house who already speak his language and know about where he comes from. Tanaka is also another reason to sign Wada.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    They have signed Wada and I actually thought about that as well. They have a nice little support system in place already and I'm sure they'll add to it.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    The Cubs did the same thing in 2008 when the brought So Taguchi into camp for Fukudome's rookie year.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    I totally forgot about that. Good call.

  • fb_avatar

    bears are out, bulls suck - gonna be a long winter if the cubs don't get Tanaka.

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    In reply to SKMD:

    Don't forget about da Blackhawks.

  • In reply to Ray:

    Right now the best run and most successful organization in the city, but I think the Cubs will soon join them.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Blackhawks man !

  • Since it does not include a draft pick and only money go for it

  • Hopefully the Yankees think like this.

    "You should want to play for us, because, you know, we're the Yankees. Here's a sack of money."

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    If he was born and raised in this country we would go for the money. It's hope his mind set is different

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    I know some of their fans think that way.

  • Lets hope he looks at the farm system of each team to see which
    one has the prospects to improve the team in future years. After
    signing him might have enough money to sign FA's in the future
    (this applies to all teams)

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think they'll have to sell him on the overall plan and convince him they can compete sooner rather than later.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Here's an idea. If they do invest the kind of money it will likely take to get Tanaka now, what are your thoughts on going all in now as well on one or two more big assets, probably through trades? Considering you are making that kind of investment, if that investment goes down with a long-term injury in year one of the contract and does not get right until a year or two down the line, you are pretty much wasting the investment unless it is surrounded by buffers. Not being able to sign Tanaka would allow the continued calculated building approach, but I think if he is signed by the Cubs it may set into motion more of a chain reaction than we might think at the moment. I would lock up Shark and trade for someone like Kemp (if they think he is healthy) and/or Headley, assets that could also be moved mid-year if the wheels fall off, but that are youthful enough to ride through a few seasons (Headley if extended). Anyway, that's what I'd try to do ;)

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I'm sure he will be made aware of every reason why he should sign with the Cubs and the bevy of top prospects on their way is one of the selling points. Not sure how much that will mean to him, but he'll know about it.

  • Bring on the heated toilets!

  • Offer him a Sushi restaurant named Tanaka's (what else), and free flights to and from Japan for the first 2 years. Pay for his wife, S.O., kids, etc to come here. Just get him here please!

  • First time commentor, long time reader.

    Bring back Yosh Kawano! Pinstripes and 27 World Championships are no match for Yosh. Let's go Thoyer. Do whatever it takes... Fujikawa, Wada, heated toliet seats, Yosh Kawano & 100 mill ougha do the trick.

    I'll hang up and listen for my answer.


    P.S. Hi Nickyyyyyy!

  • Let's be realistic, the Yankees couldn't sign the top free agent on the market let alone their own player Cano. This is an old aging team with a very small window left and a limited farm system. If Tanaka does sign with the Yankees he will join Girardi regretting not signing with the Cubs.

  • In reply to kevie:

    P.S. I'd be more worried about Seattle.

  • In reply to kevie:

    Seattle is a threat as well. NY and LAD are going to be the most closely followed but the Cubs or Mariners could surprise.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    somehow I think the price for Tanaka might be a dollar too far for seattle.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    That's my feeling when all is said and done. I think they'll be in on it, but they'll be outbid by the Cubs, NY, or LA. I think they'll get one of the remaining MLB FA pitchers.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    how about that tanaka pool, john? city/years/$

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Hmmm... that's an interesting idea. Maybe we'll do that next week. Up next (and just published), the HOF ballot and poll.

  • The Japanese players are eager to show they can play in America. It is also said whoever does win a Cub championship will be heroes, gods, elected king of Chicago, etc. Maybe a chance at being part of THAT would give him double incentive.

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    The heated toilet seats are no joke.

  • In reply to Louie101:

    I travel to the Far East, the heated seats are no joke!

  • Loosely related topic, any word on the WGN TV contract? After the Cubs opted out of the TV contract in early November I thought WGN had 30 days to submit a new proposal?!?!? Anyone have any information or hearsay?

  • In reply to Rock:

    Haven't heard anything new on that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks John, I just wonder if WGN will pony up to fair market value or will CSN have the option to televise all of the Cubs game until 2019 and how much additional revenue will it bring to the organization?

  • fb_avatar

    I'm just going to say this right now for any of you heated toilet seat doubters that might be out there. In Korea, when the wind is coming straight down the peninsula out of Siberia and the chill factor is 30 below, a heated toilet seat can be a damned nice thing.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    My dad (a Korean vet) and I want to acknowledge this as the post of the year Michael. In and more so Out of context; right at the deadline. John, posts of the year thread?

  • fb_avatar

    Hello, Tanaka? Yeah, this is Theo. They used to say the Red Sox were cursed too. 86 years without a championship. I won the World Series twice in nine years there. Oh and by the way, we have a top rated farm, Chicago is a great city and we have a BIG sack of money too.

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    In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    One big drawback to the Cubs though is the city and state itself. Outside of California and New York, Illinois has the highest taxes. I don't see the Rangers getting involved because of the payroll commitments they already have, but I could see the Astros wanting Tanaka for the exact same reasons the Cubs do, and Texas actually believes in letting people keep what they earn.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    This is ridiculous. In California, the top state income tax rate is 13.3 percent. In New York, the top rate is 8.82 percent. In Illinois, the top rate is 5 percent. No fewer than 32 other states (aside from NY and CA) have top income tax rates higher than or equal to Illinois' rate of 5 percent. Feel free to actually know what you're talking about before running your mouth.

  • In reply to Jason O’Connell:

    Plus our 5% rate is "temporary" or at least that is what our politicians said. It is supposed to go back to 3%. I would not hold my breath though.

  • fb_avatar

    Thanks for the article John!! I enjoy learning how Theo and Jon operates and what makes them successful; and seeing if it can be applied to my own life!

  • In reply to Cubsforlife:

    Thanks. I thought that Curt Schilling recruitment provided great insight into how much they prepare and build relationships with players.

  • fb_avatar

    Great stuff John!
    I really believe this is gonna be a decision based on accommodations and little perks more so than dollars.
    Hearing that Schilling said those things about Theo and Jed makes me even more hopeful but you know what they say about if it sounds too good to be true...
    Cubs really, really need this signing. What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall in Theo's office!

  • In reply to AdolphoPhillips67:

    Money could be wind up being close with a few teams, so sometimes these little things can tip the scales.

  • The heated toilet seats indeed are not a joke over here. But that list of niceties for Tanaka & his wife were not originally from the Japanese Sanspo article. They were from a tongue & cheek piece by an Arizona reporter on how the D-Backs might be able to land Tanaka, not being able to compete on the money front with NY, LA, Chicago. Unfortunately, I think the Japanese reporter kind of took it literally.

    Nevertheless, John's points in his piece are very relevant. Theo & Jed can legitimately play up their Boston experience, how they handled & supported the likes of Dice-K, the current Cubs support system for Fujikawa etc., the up & coming nature of our system, strong analytics, and of course the great city of Chicago (a bit tougher sell if he visits mid-winter!).

  • Great stuff, John. The Tanaka sweepstakes are what execs live for. I'm sleeping really well knowing our guys will at least pull out all the stops! Even if it means pulling out 10-20 million more stops than the next guy. I can assure you I will still be jumping for joy if they gave him 7 & 140!

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Thanks. I feel the same way. Win or lose, I know the Cubs will prepare and do everything within reason.

  • Hopefully TheoJed will make sure the "Horry Kow" t-shirts don't make a reappearance if they really want to do all the little things for Tanaka.

  • In reply to DemonBerryhill:


  • How about Michael Jordan's mansion as a signing bonus?

  • In reply to northside disciple:

    Haha! I'd take that.

  • In reply to northside disciple:

    That honestly doesn't sound like a terrible idea. Maybe they could borrow the Obama residence as well.

  • Given his relatively ridiculous demands, I feel like I want the Cubs to land Tanaka even more right now. Anyone who wants a heated toilet seat as part of his "war chest" seems like they've got just enough silliness to them to be great to cheer for.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    Tanaka didn't ask for that stuff, that was taken from a joke article by an arizona reporter on what the D-back's can do to compete with the money of NY-LA-Chicago.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Thanks, Dawg. I've been trying to say this for a few days. Azcentral.com if anyone's interested in where all these silly things came from.

  • John - Does this this wrap up before January 24th or will it go the distance?

  • fb_avatar

    Part of me says that they've been saving all their bullets for this guy. Let's hope that they've been playing a great game of poker here.

  • I hear many say Chicago is a great town, then I see programs like "VICE" that have programs saying that people call Chicago - CHIRAQ (Chicago/Iraq) because of the overwhelming violence.

    I live close, but I'm not there enough to have an informed opinion one way or the other.

  • I'm wondering how far Theo & Jed go on a contract offer for Tanaka? Maybe they need to offer 6-7 years and upwards of 175 million + the 20 M to his team in Japan,if so might as well toss in another 25 M too make it a total investment of 200 simoleons.Talk about high stakes poker,not for the weak of heart even with a bottomless pocket book.

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    In reply to TheRiot2:

    If I'm the Cubs, I'd consider going up to 8 years but not for more than an AAV of 19 million dollars.

  • Anibal Sanchez is still pissed that Theo brought the wrong brownies.

  • I recently read that Rakuten has developed over the years into the Amazon of the Pacific Rim and they are now looking to invest heavily in the U.S. tech and e-commerce sectors. Posting Tanaka has obviously gotten the Rakuten brand a lot of free publicity at the very least. Taking this one step further, it would not surprise me if Tanaka were to choose a destination city and team that would continue to generate the most publicity for himself and Rakuten either directly as a company spokesperson or indirectly as a loyal former employee. If that is the case, I think the Yankees would be his first choice, due to the coverage they receive on networks like ESPN. I think LA would be the second choice because it is the entertainment epicenter and Rakuten's Viki unit is a major global video streaming provider. Chicago is a distant third in this scenario.

    However, if it is purely a personal decision for Tanaka and his family, Chicago has a great chance. Fukodome kept his Lakepoint Tower condo here, so it's safe to assume that the city has a favorable reputation among Japanese players. Seattle and Texas are likely in the mix and it also wouldn't surprise me to see the Giants step up

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