If a report from Sanspro is true, then it appears that Masahiro Tanaka will be posted after all. There was much speculation about the decision -- much of it pessimistic. Most felt that Tanaka's team,the Ratuken Eagles, were not prepared to let their ace go for the newly capped posting fee of $20M.
What this means is we should expect multiple teams to be involved on Tanaka. He is a 25 year old pitcher with a history of dominance at what is considered by most to be the highest level of competitive baseball other than the MLB.
There has been much concern that the Cubs don't have money to spend. Scott Boras recently hinted otherwise. I believe him in this instance. I believe the Cubs do, in fact, have the money to spend and that the reason they aren't buying up free agents this offseason is more about avoiding having to make long term commitments on players whose greatest contributions figure to come in the short term and, more to the point, a time frame in which the Cubs don't expect to compete.
But Tanaka is different. He is just entering his peak performance years and we can expect 5-6 productive years from him if he stays healthy. The fact that he will still be in the age range of peak performance at a time when the Cubs actually expect they can contend is the difference here.
If the Cubs are truly short on money, we're about to find out.
It is my understanding (and has been since August) that the Cubs will pursue Tanaka aggressively. It is my understanding, in fact, that the Cubs would pursue any in-prime or pre-prime player that becomes available on the open market -- especially when it doesn't cost them anything in terms of long term assets. It's been my conviction that isn't about not having the money. It's been about knowing how and when to spend it.
We saw an aggressive pursuit of Anibal Sanchez just last year when there were even less certainties about Wrigley renovations and the potential revenue it would generate. We saw the Cubs outbid the Tigers by $30-$35M and forced the Tigers to match. I also know that the Cubs finished 2nd in the posting to Yu Darvish and Hyun-Jin Ryu. If coming in second means the Cubs are cheap or small market, should we say the same about the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and other large markets who also lost out on the bidding?
I expect the Cubs to make an even greater effort to land Tanaka. They underestimated Texas' willingness to go way beyond perceived market value for Darvish. They learned their lesson on Ryu and put in an even more aggressive bid relative to market value. But again, it wasn't enough. This time the Dodgers went unexpectedly high and beat out what was a very aggressive bid on the Cubs part. There was genuine disappointment when the Cubs lost out on Ryu. There were some who felt the Cubs had bid more than enough to land him.
I don't expect them to underestimate the competition this time around.
The Cubs have left themselves with a lot of payroll flexibility here and have put themselves in a position to outbid the competition if necessary.
Buster Olney tweets that the industry isn't sleeping on the Cubs, so I am not the only one hearing the Cubs intend to make a serious bid here,
Lots of speculation among executives that the Cubs are poised to try to strike big on Tanaka. We'll see.
We'll see, indeed.
How the Cubs approach the Tanaka bidding will tell us a lot about where this organization stands financially and whether they are willing to pay -- even overpay -- if the right type of player comes along.
So is he worth it?
Here is what I wrote based on what I heard on him back in August,
Tanaka is the best player in this free agent class and I've received nothing but raves from scouts regarding his stuff, command, and makeup. More than a couple of scouts think that he could possibly be a top of the rotation starter and most think he's at least a #2.
Tanaka is capable of reaching 97 mph on his 4-seam FB though he often works more in the 92-94 range. His fastball is considered a plus pitch, as is his slider. His best pitch, however, may be a splitter, which I've been told rates 70 on the 20-80 scale by three different scouts.
I'm going to be truly disappointed if the Cubs don't make a major play for Tanaka. He fits what the Cubs say they want most -- impact players in their peak performance years. Nothing is guaranteed when you have 29 other teams potentially in the hunt -- some that are in even wealthier than the Cubs. It's anything but a lock that they can win the bidding, but I expect them to make much more than just a token effort here.
I think the Cubs are going to be in this with every intention of coming home with the grand prize.
And if they do land Tanaka, then I will consider this offseason a huge win.
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