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.