Why the Cubs could win the Tanaka sweepstakes

Why the Cubs could win the Tanaka sweepstakes

There is an argument that Tanaka will sign with the Yankees over the Cubs.

It goes something like this: It's because they're the Yankees and they have money.

Those things by themselves are indeed pretty formidable but the positives for the Yankees pretty much begin and end right there. Let's put the money issue aside for now because the Cubs have money to spend too. So do other teams.

So what about the part about them being the Yankees?

There is no question that there is an aura and a mystique with the Yankees. No team can match it's history. But if you're a 25 year old pitcher, are you looking more toward history or the future?

The Yankees were an 85 win team last year who outplayed their Pythagorean record by 6 games, meaning they really played more like a 79-83 team.

But it's not just any 79 win team -- it's an old, past their prime, overpaid 79 win team. Sure they signed Jacoby Ellsbury, but they also lost Robinson Cano. Yes, the signed Carlos Beltran -- but they also lost Curtis Granderson. They gained Brian McCann but lost Andy Pettite and Mariano Rivera.

Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki are 39. Alfonso Soriano is 37. Ace C.C. Sabathia will be 34 by the middle of the season while Hiroki Kuroda will be 39 by the time the season starts. Only Eduardo Nunez is under 30 years old and received substantial playing time last year.

Does this look like a team on it's way up or does it merely look like it's just treading water?

Or worse?

There are no reinforcements on the way. The Yankees farm system is iffy at best. The pitchers haven't stayed healthy and there are questions about all their best position players.

This is not a team you would call the team of the future.

Of course, they have money and they can spend it. But the money they spend on Tanaka or any other players may be more expensive than it seems. As a team that has been over the luxury tax repeatedly, they must now pay 40% tax for every dollar they spend above the limit. Seeing that they are already over the limit, they will have to pay that amount on top of whatever they give Tanaka. so while they can pay $20M per year for Tanaka, they are really paying $28M. That's not to mention that whatever raw figure they pay in New York is worth less than pretty much everywhere else in terms of cost of living. So maybe they have to chip in a little extra.

Is that worth it for them? Maybe.

The same could be said of the Dodgers, of course, and they have to sign players such as Clayton Kershaw going into next year. If you think money is no object for them, then you should ask yourself why they should bother considering unloading Matt Kemp's salary. Why are they so willing to dump Andre Ethier for what amounts to salary relief?

The Dodgers also have 3 top level starters -- do they pay a premium for a 4th and make one of their other current highly paid rotation members less relevant come playoff time? How much are they willing to pay to add a 4th good starter, especially when you factor in the luxury tax penalty? Can they afford him? Of course, they can.  But is it a wise allocation of resources for them? I'm not so sure.

The Cubs have no such problems. They are well below the luxury tax threshold. When they pay Tanaka $20M, that's exactly what they are going to pay out. They have plenty of room at the top of their rotation for an ace.

And for them, the signing can mean a lot more. This is one rare instance where the business and baseball part of the equation line up perfectly. The front office wants in prime players at premium positions -- and if they can get those kinds of players without reaching into their long term assets, even better. Tanaka checks all those boxes.

We'll assume ownership also wants to win but even if you believe they are only concerned with money, then Tanaka still makes sense.


Well, one thing we know the Cubs are looking to do from a business standpoint is find ways to generate revenue. What better way than a star player from Japan who will drive media attention plus merchandising and advertising dollars just when the Cubs need it most?

Ownership also wants to boost sagging attendance. Is it not plausible that Tanaka alone will drive fans to the park in droves every 5th day? If it helps make the team more competitive overall then it should also have a ripple effect on the other days as well.

Tanaka will be costly but he will also produce revenue -- that will be music to Rickett's ears and ultimately, to those of Theo and Jed because it means they'll have more to spend later. Moreover, being able to recoup some money from Tanaka makes the deal less financially risky for the Cubs -- even if he doesn't pitch at an ace-like level.  The team will generate big revenue right from the start and will continue to do so as long as Tanaka is healthy and pitching every 5th day.

Then there is the Cubs team itself. They are not as good as the Yankees, of course, but they aren't that much worse either -- just 8 games last year if you go by Pythagorean record. Just 66 runs if you go by run differential.

But unlike the Yankees, the Cubs arrow is pointing upward. Tanaka will be in his prime in 2-3 seasons from now, about the same time most of us expect the Cubs to be serious perennial contenders. It lines up pretty nicely.

They also have a better infield defense than the Yankees so it may be better for Tanaka's career. He is not a pure strikeout pitcher, having struck out less than 8 batters per 9 IP last year and that figures to go down in the MLB.

Is he better off pitching in front of a Cubs infield defense or a Yankees one that potentially includes an aging, injury plagued DP combo of Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts? It's likely that a pitcher like Tanaka will put up better numbers with the Cubs than he will with the Yankees, where I would expect him to pitch well below his peripherals.

Chicago is still a large market and revenues should start flowing next year for what should be a much better free agent class, so the Cubs could get the jump on the market by going all out to sign Tanaka now and then build on it for next year's class when they will still have plenty of room to spend without fear of luxury tax reprisal. They may actually be in better position to vie for a title -- and sustain that competitiveness -- right at a time when Tanaka will be at his peak.

On the surface at least, it appears the Cubs have more going for them than the Oakland A's did when they surprised the big market teams by landing Yoenis Cespedes.

And while I have no doubt the Yankees and Dodgers would love to add Tanaka to their respective rotations, I think they'll have a harder time than you might think fending off the challenge of the younger, less bloated, up and coming Cubs.

And also consider this: The Yankees and Dodgers may be just as happy to drive up the market price of Tanaka so that, at the very least, their competitors will have to pay big and compromise their own payrolls if they want to acquire him. It's in their best interests to get involved big -- win or lose -- and if they had to lose, it would be much less painful to lose him to the Cubs than it would be to say, the Red Sox or the Diamondbacks. It is not implausible that if the remaining bidders are the Cubs and the Yankees and/or Dodgers, that the latter team(s) could bow out given their own financial situations. They could still consider that scenario a victory if their main competitors on the field were priced out by a potential bidding war.

If it is true that the Cubs say they won't be outbid, then I think they have a realistic shot at landing Tanaka even if it will almost certainly mean they'll have to overpay in terms of raw talent alone. But in the Cubs case, this signing will be more than just acquiring talent. Signing Tanaka would be a win for everyone in Wrigleyland-- ownership, the front office, the fans -- and of course, the team itself.


Leave a comment
  • It's plausible that Tanaka would drive an increase in attendance at Wrigley, but I doubt it.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    For all the other reasons listed however, Tanaka makes far too much sense for the Cubs not to go balls to the wall to sign him.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    In general I agree -- but do you think Tanaka is an exception because of his stardom in Japan and the potential to bring in a new legion of fans? I also think that while an individual signing doesn't help, fielding a competitive team does and if Tanaka can help them do that, then maybe he helps indirectly?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Kosuke was a star in NPB and he didn't bring in legions of new fans. I don't think this factor should be a consideration and I doubt that it is.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    That is true.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    But is wasn't nearly the name in Japan as Tanaka and Fukudome did bring in advertising money.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Fukudome was a dud & it took less than a month to see that. Funny you use him as an example- the guy was god awful & he was voted to the all-star team. Two years and many months of being terrible & his shirts/jersey's were still all over the place.

    I think if you want a model, maybe cite ichiro. The guy was a marketing magnet- and THAT WAS IN SEATTLE.

    I think john is dead on in mentioning this. Think of Chicago athletes in Chicago who did well & were characters & how Chicago turned them into icons. (I'm not saying being Japanese makes you a character- but tanaka & this whole situation have similar makings- again, see fukudome) Sammy, Rodman, '85 Bears to name a few.

    No, I say him coming from japan & being the star he is there is the marketing side thoyer pitched to ricketts to take this from a "we think he's worth $15M-whatever" to a "we think you'd be wise to let us not get outbid."

    That's what I'm guessing, anyway.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to MikeyB:

    I actually think Fukudome was underappreciated. If someone told you that for this upcoming season, the Cubs could have a corner outfielder who posts an .800 OPS and fields well for $12 million, would you even think twice? That's essentially what Fukudome did his final 2 years here. I think if he posted the exact same on-base percentages, but with an average that was 30 points higher, we'd view his signing in an entirely different light.

    As for your point that it only took a month to see he was a "dud", that's just incorrect. On May 1st, 2008, Fukudome was sporting a .327/.436/.480 line. A month later, it was .310/.412/.442.

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    Think twice? Yes. & I wouldn't think twice about thinking twice. And if you were fooled by his offensive output in May, I'm sorry. The OBP was wonderful & all- but aside from opening day, the rate he was overpowered in crucial situations & clutch opportunities was alarming & proved to be his curse. We all held out hope, but he came off like mark prior as a hitter (with more speed). Showed the ability to hit, but couldn't hit anybody above average or when the game was on the line & the pitcher dialed it up a notch.

    Sorry if he fooled you. Must've been an extremely long season for you.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I do think a Tanaka signing would at least produce a temporary increase in attendance and merchandise sales. If Tanaka pitches "lights out", I think the phenomena may be prolonged somewhat. Beyond that, will be determined by both FO creativity and execution.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Look at what Nomo and Fernando did with LA, and LA fans are not notorius baseball fans. If Tanaka became anything like Fernando V in his rookie year, people would take notice.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    The Dodgers have a loyal fanbase, evidenced by the fact that the Dodgers were the first MLB team to attract more than 3 million fans in a season (in 1978), and accomplished that feat six more times before any other franchise did it once.[23] The Dodgers drew at least 3 million fans for 15 consecutive seasons from 1996 to 2010, the longest such streak in all of MLB.[23] On July 3, 2007, Dodgers management announced that total franchise attendance, dating back to 1901, had reached 175 million, a record for all professional sports.[24] In 2007, the Dodgers set a franchise record for single-season attendance, attracting over 3.8 million fans. From Wikipedia.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Eddie:

    I think a starting pitcher can help walk up attendance a little. The Cubs averaged 2000+ more a game in Wood's 13 starts in 1998 than all other home dates. 33,722/game v. 31,663/game

  • In reply to Pooch7171:

    Interesting. Nice work. It seems that in general individual players don't aid attendance but there are exceptions. I wonder if there was a difference in Fernando Valenzuela's heyday or Hideo Nomo. Maybe the key is to achieve some level of rock star status.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think the other thing the Fangraphs article doesn't address is no shows. The Cubs have sold a lot of tix these past to years but there have been a significant # of no shows. Those no shows don't buy soda, beer, hot dogs etc. That's money lost. Getting Tanaka, even if he didn't sell one more ticket, would reduce the # of no shows IMO.

  • John, I think your points are well made. When you refer to next yr's FA class, are you referring just to the arms? The bats look weak,IMO.

    When people say that the Shark & Tanaka issues are separate , I don't really buy that. If we're able to secure Tanaka, I find it hard to believe that wouldn't increase the likelihood of a Shark extension. The combined signings would accelerate timeline and eliminate the concern about "front-of-the-rotation" arms. With Shark, Tanaka, Wood, EJax in tow, you can take your time with P Johnson, Edwards et al. Furthermore, there is a good chance we get a high-ceiling SP at the top of next yr's draft, as well. That would allow us to be very stealth on FA/trade mkts to acquire a veteran bat or two to help spearhead the lineup reconstruction. Sounds to me like a relevant team in '15.

  • The cubs have spent between $105-110 mil under Theo the past two years. They currently sit at $52,534,524 without figuring in arbitration figures. But even then you're looking at maybe another $15 mil? So, that leaves the cubs with $37.5 mil and change in difference between payrolls. I see no reason they should be able to compete with the yankees as long as it's a debate over money. They conceivably could offer him $20 mil next year without batting an eye. Also, Sorion's additional $14 mil comes off the books next year. So, they could easily eat the $20 mil posting fee and pay him $20 mil the next 2 years if they so choose and it would barely make a dent in the standard budget they've had the past several years.

  • In reply to beckdawg:

    er that should say no reason they shouldn't be able.... also I typo'd Soriano.

  • Will Theo forget about the no-trade-clause? At his age a 6-7 year
    contract might be what it will take.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    It might be. I think Tanaka is a rare free agent in terms of his age and level of production at a highly competive league. If I were going to dole out some kind of NTC, Tanaka might be an exception. Hopefully it doesn't come down to that, but I think the FO has to be prepared to be flexible in that regard.

  • Why Tanaka is NOT coming to the Cubs.

    - Los Angeles Dodgers has Hitters
    - Los Angeles Angels has Hitters
    - Hollywood Hills looks better than Wrigleyville ghetto
    - Anaheim Hills smells better then Wrigleyville air.
    - Tanaka's agent has ties with Greinke & Kershaw
    - Both teams ready to win
    - Large Asian Community.

    then there is Seattle......

    - Seattle is closer to Japan then Chicago is.
    - Seattle has King Hernnadez, Iwakuma and might trade for Price.
    - Seattle is ready to compete in 2014.

    then there is Texas.....

    - their GM has to save his job...needs a big deal....bigger than trading for G. Stanton.
    - Yu Darvish could be a factor.
    - cannot afford to have the Mariners or Angels sign Tanaka.

    and finally, the Big Apple......

    - Big Time Money
    - Yankees Tradition
    - Playoffs......Championships
    - Major Endorsements

    Diamondbacks & Red Sox are not in.........Cubs will bid, but the amount will be too much for Tommy Ricketts.

    if there was a "Dark Horse" out would be San Francisco Giants.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Eh, nothing new from the basic negative stuff already out there. It's all surface stuff and a lot of your reasons won't matter when all is said and done -- and some were disputed by the article itself.

    I also think you could have written a similar piece about how Yoenis Cespedes would never sign with A's two years ago.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Ugh. This site was so much better when you weren't commenting, CubsTalk. As John said many of your claims are disputed in the above article.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    He calls Wrigleyville a ghetto, can't stand the ownership, mgmt, players, prospects, and team history... yet he claims to be a Cubs Fan of 45 years... doesn't make much sense to me.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Ha, your posts are so predictable. When I saw the title of John's article, "Why the Cubs Could Win the Tanaka Sweepstakes", I immediately predicted you would post the negative version. But what I didn't see coming was that you would call Wrigleyville a ghetto. It's sad when you have to go to the absurd in order to be original.

    If you care about people taking what you write seriously, it would be a good idea to stop using absolutes. It shows humility when one writes how something "could" happen. It shows arrogance when someone writes that something "will" or "will not" happen. It's the difference between stating an opinion and declaring the truth for all to hear.

    And lastly, I think the arguments you make for the other teams are ham handed and not very good. "Big Time Money"? This is persuasive? The Yankees have been saying all year long how serious they are about needing to be under the salary tax limit. They are currently 6 million under unless ARod gets suspended. Even then they would be 32 mill under with 15 players left to sign. The Cubs can easily compete with that. So there is no "Big Time Money" advantage at play here. In years past, the Yankees had such an advantage but not this season. Not after spending so much on Ellsbury, Beltran and McCann. I don't think a team's tradition carries a lot of weight with a FA. I mean, would it with you, if you stood to make millions of dollars in one deal? It would matter more what my experience will be during my stay with that team. Will I be winning? What is the overall health of this franchise. How do the look over the next 5 years. That and the money would be my two main factors. Would you really care about a team's tradition? Yes, playoffs and championships would matter. But future ones, not past. Major Endorsements can be had in a lot of places, not just New York City. And if you win, you can have major endorsements at a national level, like Tanaka undoubtedly has back in Japan right now.

    I found your arguments stale and cliche' and just not well thought through.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Do yourself a favorite and stop talking about baseball business because you honesty have no idea what you are talking about.

    I can say without a doubt you never been to Orange County or L.A. the smog is terrible. The Dodgers have 6 SPs, so why start an issue in the Clubhouse by adding a 7th. The also need to sign Kershaw long term.
    The Angels need to add a proven SP and I would guess Garza would be top on their list. They also need to tie up Trout long term. If they got Tanaka and lost Trout fans would be pissed just like the Dodger fan would be pissed if they lost Kershaw.
    Mariners have already stated they are at the limits at their payroll. They are also at a surplus in position players so it makes more sense to add through trade.
    The Yankees are a legit threat but I don't see them as a team that will contend. The Cubs IF is as good or better then the Yankees right now. There are just as many questions as the Cubs and no help coming unless they play for it. They look much more like the Yankees of the 80s then the ones 90s or 2000's.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to CubsTalk:

    If Wrigleyville is the ghetto why are there $1-2million dollar condo's and houses going up for sale?

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I'm guessing this is a loser sox fan who has nobody to talk to because sox fans aren't active? I really hope so. Otherwise, your post is painfully resembling that of a 6 year old who's pouting while he's writing.

    Don't wanna waste time with this, but I feel the need to stand up to actual good, sound journalism & advocate against people who get off on being jerks.

    -Tanaka's from japan. He could care less about your quite feminine "air" observations.

    -agent has ties to Kershaw/greinke? Gimme a break. Horrible, argument you should be embarrassed about. I'll just assume you were really sleepy when you wrote that.

    -your Seattle breakdown is even worse than your dodger/agent ties bit. I don't wanna waste everybody else's time blasting something that is already an obvious disaster- so please specifically ask me if I need to break down this grade school pitch for Seattle.

    -ah, my FAVORITE part, my favorite part!!!! Rangers can't afford for tanaka to go to the mariners or angels. I had to show that one to a bunch a people. Even some strangers. I mean, after all, if tanaka went to the cubs, I think we all know he'd also be on the mariners and/or angels. Super interesting take on your part & really great substance to use when you're being a jerk. Ouch!

    -then you just get lazy, kinda trail off, & we lose you. It's aggravating to see you apparently didn't even read this article, as displayed by your "big apple" section. There's a good chance arod is about to dry cashman's pen in a big way, so, then, "big time money", ehhhh, not so much. And what tanaka understands, thankfully, but what you don't, is when you put on a Yankee uniform, nobody hands you a World Series ring.

    If he cares about who's won previously maybe he'll be turned off when he sees the yanks have won once in 13 years. Yikes! Would make way more sense for him to go to the giants. Or phillies. Or cardinals.

    Regardless. It's pretty transparent you're a sox fan or, at the very least, anti cubs for whatever reason. Peithervway, PLEASE just find & then go where your type of people hang out. You're getting in our way & we love to read & talk real, grown up baseball.

    Cool name, but nobody's buying it.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Wrigleyville is a slum? That (absurd) fact should eliminate any free agents signing with the Yankees in the Bronx (where all Yankees are forced to live, we must assume).
    How the White Sox are legally allowed to sign free agents, if Wrigleyville is a slum, is a matter for the good folks at Amnesty International.

  • I don't mean to stereotype but me having experience working with japanese companies and people they love order and that there is a plan and it is efficient. I think theo will show them there whole plan for the present and future.

  • In reply to seankl:

    You don't mean to stereotype? LOL!

    "japanese companies and people they love order and that there is a plan and it is efficient"

    Just because you have met with business people or factory managers, which by occupation are a group of people that like efficiency and order, doesn't mean that all Japanese people are like that. Their are Japanese punk rockers, skaters, madmen, criminals, adrenalin junkies, and yes business people that love efficiency and order, just like in the U.S. and most developed countries.

  • If it more than money and instant fame then the Cubs have a chance

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I do think the Cubs plan has to be a factor. They'll have to sell him that they can win here...and soon.

  • I'd rank his potential destinations in order as...
    1. Yankees
    2. Dodgers
    3. Mariners
    4. Cubs
    5. Giants

  • Small bit on the Yankees and the luxury tax: The Yankees seem to think ARod will be suspended the entire year next year, which I believe puts them under the luxury tax by something like $11M. That could make things interesting because if they stay under, the penalties re-set. Meaning signing Tanaka and going over could have a financial ripple effect for years to come.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Good point.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    I'm going to jump in here, probably too late for anyone to read but oh well, LOL!!!

    What is being missed by the media on its Tanaka to the Yanks as they blow the industry away is exactly what Tulane is hitting like a hammer.

    The Yanks are entering I believe the 50% tax for going over the $189 mil limit. They really need to reset this, and it is a big issue for them. The team is old, the farm is poor, and it is no secret they don't sell out the high priced seats in their billion dollar palace! i.e. They need to spend in the future.

    BUT, a 50% tax is crippling for even the Yankees and Dodgers. In today's age with WAR worth roughly $5.5 million and going up fast you can't buy 95 wins or roughly +40 WAR without blowing by $189 mil. Since the farm is dry it is something they have to worry about.

    If the Yanks go to say $220 mil they have a $15 mil tax. That isn't insignificant, that is a good #3 arm. It is resource management and they can't spot the Red Sox that and expect to get the best of them most years.

    Now comes the unclear part, MLB hopes they get 150 game decision on Arod, but most think 100 is more likely. That 50 games is a bunch, it is both salary and potential milestone money.

    I think the Yanks will be in on Tanaka, but I don't think they can blow everyone off the map. In fact if they did I think they are in real trouble for the next 5 or more years, as John explained. This is still a very flawed team, and with the tax rate it is VERY expensive to patch holes.

    With the Cubs payroll so low and a bunch of Sori money coming off next year they are in position for this win, almost better than any other team in the race. If the FO values him as a 4 WAR guy I think they go to the mat for him and that to me is $100-120 mil for 5-6 years, without posting fee.

  • I'm really not that worried about the Yankees signing Tanaka... Now will his agent use the Yankees as leverage to drive the price up? Of course he will, but I don't think Tanaka wants to go to the Yankees.

    Reports are that Tanaka really wants to go to a West Coast Team. Also I think people are seriouslu underestimating the relationship between Masahiro Tanaka & Hisashi Iwakuma. Iwakuma was not just his teammate on the Golden Eagles, they were also great friends, and most importantly Iwakuma was Rakuten's star Ace, and Tanaka's mentor. Combine that with Seattle's move to win now, the Cano signing, the mlb ready prospects (Walker, Paxson, etc.), Seattles huge asian population, and the Mariner's inactivity since signing Cano, and I think they are going for him with everything they've got.

    You can be sure that when Tanaka goes to visit the Mariners, Iwakuma will be their to meet him and show him around. Having your mentor tell you how great it's been with the Mariner's so far, the success he's had their, and selling him the plan for the future could be game-set-match.

    I'm sure The Rangers will have Darvish do the same thing, and the Yankees with Kuroda, but it won't have the same impact in my opinion.

    I think the order of probability is as follows:

    1. Mariners
    2. L.A. Dodgers
    3. L.A. Angels/Cubs
    4. Rangers
    5. Yankees
    6. Dbacks,

    Long Shot/Sleeper - Houston

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    The Mariners have already said they are close to their Payroll limits. Dodgers already have 6 legit SP and they already have 4 legit Starting OFer. I doubt the continue with with the logjams. I believe the Angels will start looking to resign Trout so I think that would price then out and they will get Garza.

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    I think the Mariners said that as a front and this has been their plan all along once they realized they were not going to get Price unless they gave up Walker, speaking of which, if they are at their payroll limit, how could they afford Price's extra salary? see, it's all "team speak", in other words BS. A rotation of King Felix - Tanaka - Iwakuma - Walker - Paxson ... could be deadly and a beast in the playoffs. and as I said the reunion of Iwakuma & Tanaka would probably be ideal for him personally and close enough to Hollywood for his wife.

    The Angels would much rather have Tanaka than Garza, and Tanaka's wife is a famous actress in Japan and want's to be near Los Angeles. As they say, Happy Wife, happy life. Tanaka has made it known to sources that he prefers a West Coast team. If they want to sign Trout long term they will also have to show him that they are a contender.... one way to do that is to sign Tanaka and make a run in the playoffs this year.

    As far as the Dodgers having a surplus of pitching, that makes no difference, they are working with play money after their broadcasting deals and Tanaka is an exceptional talent that will definitely make them better. Does it necessarily make sense for them, no, but it doesn't have to when you have huge amounts of money and an ownership with the desire to win now.

    I really hope the Cubs get Tanaka. I really do. I'm just pointing out that every team that is seriously interested in Tanaka is prepared to offer him big money. So the deciding factors could come down to comfort level and issues unrelated to baseball. Also a major point of my first post was to say that I don't think the Yankees are really as big a player in this as people give them credit for. Tanaka's agent will use them as a pawn to drive the price up but I don't see much that will appeal to Tanaka otherwise.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I'm a big Cubs fan, and I live in Japan. But, I don't really follow Japanese baseball much. I've asked around a little about Tanaka, but really haven't learned that much different from what I've read on here. However, I did check on his wife. She might be interested in Hollywood, I'll give you that. But calling her a famous actress in Japan is a stretch. She's a member of a Japanese Pop girl group, and appears on some variety shows. So, that could be a plus for the Dodgers, but I'm not sure how much.

  • In reply to Kevin Knobloch:

    RE: But calling her a famous actress in Japan is a stretch. She's a member of a Japanese Pop girl group, and appears on some variety shows.

    Thanks for the first hand knowledge. I read in a couple articles that she was famous in Japan, and I also read in a couple articles that she was an actress, so I guess I just put the two together.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Why do the Mariners need a hide anything. They already have one of the best 1 2 combinations pitching wise and Walker looks like a pitcher that could turn into another #1 type pitcher. Their biggest issue is and still is offensive.
    I think the Cubs could sell Tanaka on the plan and the fact he becomes the Man as soon as he signs.

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    RE: I think the Cubs could sell Tanaka on the plan and the fact he becomes the Man as soon as he signs.

    I hope you're right. I think he could be a stud for the Cubs.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    The Mariners are a train wreck of an organization, if you've read the recent articles about their GM and the crazy in-fighting with the front office/scouts/manager, it's embarrassing. Of course a player from Japan likely isn't going to know that, nor will their agent explain that. I'm glad we're not in that situation.

  • A good/valid point. I think that having the plan in place is a big selling point. The Cubs can point to a burgeoning farm system, new revenue streams opening up in the future, some talent already at the MLB level, etc, etc. and show they are organized and moving inexorably forward. The Yanks seem dead in the water to me unless they offer substantially more than others (which seems remote give how much the Cubs, Rangers, Dodgers could also offer). Seattle. Meh. I think the Rangers have a real shot because they are probably getting desperate, have money, have a strong team, and have some depth in the minors. This will be interesting. Really, really hope the Cubs get Tanaka b/c I'm not to psyched to follow the team day to day as currently constructed...

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Oops. Not sure what happened, but my post was in response to seankl.

  • Tanaka certainly would be a shot in the arm for attendance. He is a showman, really almost rock star status in Japan. Very demonstrative on the mound, he is going to tick off some other teams for sure.

  • While I am (fairly) confident Tanaka will be a Cub, I think the biggest competition will be Seattle. In the end, if he chooses a different team it will be because of personal preference over money.

  • Seattle is a possibility as well. It wouldn't surprise me if it came down to the Cubs and other teams besides the Dodgers and Yanks.

  • A full throttle attempt to land Tanaka will restore my faith in Ricketts. And if, by golly, we actually get him, well, you read it here first:

    Cubs will be in contention in July!

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Me too. I think if they go all out the way they did with Sanchez, I'll be happy. Hopefully it's enough this time.

  • Well written article. Maybe you can sit in on the negotiations with Theo. Or just send Tanaka a link to this article.

  • In reply to jamespk:

    Ha! Thanks. I hope he really does strongly consider these factors.

  • Lets not get ahead of ourselves...they still, afterall, are the Cubs.

  • Great article John. I think Theo and Jed should bring youto the negotiations.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    Ha! Thanks

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Looks like James beat me to it. But serious, you made some fantastic points.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    Thank you. I think it's still going to be difficult, but believe there are at least some reasons to have hope.

  • I'm praying he goes to my Cubbies. Money is no option here. Tanaka is the best pitcher to come by since Dice-K or Dwight Gooden. If they're so concerned about filling seats, put a good product on the field. If I didn't live 500 miles from Clark & Addison, I'd be there once a month.

  • In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    I hope so too. In the end, it's going to be very tough to get him, but I think the Cubs have a legit shot at this.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I would love to see the Cubs get Tanaka, but I also wonder what it will cost in years/salary/no trade? What is too much? Its hard to get into the heads of the front office and see where they may draw that line. I'm just worried it could get really crazy.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Definitely have to worry about it but I have to think the Cubs have a ballpark idea of how far they are willing to go. I think they can mitigate some of the financial risk with the revenue he should bring in.

  • Theo has a good rep in Japan. Reports were out a week or two ago that the Golden Eagles talked to him about coming to work for them a while back. That might help.

  • Happy Holidays John. My question is how bad the Yankees Minor league pithing really is. They just released Marshal who was arguably one of their 6 best minor pitchers. What roster move did they have to make that made him expendable?

  • In reply to CubsBuck22:

    Their most talented pitchers all have injury and/or command issues: Manny Banuelos, Delin Betances, Jose Campos. I don't blame them for keeping those guys because they have higher ceilings, but they are hardly guys you can depend on at this point.

  • Great stuff!

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Thanks Ben.

  • The Cubs will not be outbid by anyone. All of the other competitors for Tanaka's services face financial issues. Yankees are going to have to pay a ton of money in Luxury taxes which they are adverse to doing.

    LA has a lot of TV money coming in, but have Kershaw and others that they are paying or have to pay. Seattle is in the same boat.

    The one thing we don't know anything about is what Tanaka is looking for. Does he care about the Yankee prestige? Does he want to come to a team and be the ace or a #3? Does he want to be close to Japan? Does climate matter?

    Who knows. Ultimately, these answers will determine where he will go as the money will be about the same wherever he goes.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I hope you're right about the money. And I agree that we don't really know what motivates Tanaka. Hopefully the Cubs do.

  • John, what do you think about the selling point for the Cubs being that if Tanaka comes, he becomes "The Man" where as on other teams, he is just another cog in the machine? Do you think that would have any sway?

  • In reply to historyrat:

    I think they can use that too. He'll probably be a star no matter where he goes, but there would be more focus in Chicago if that's what he wants.

  • I'm wondering who the Cubs will DFA if they sign Tanaka. Good sign that the roster is building with some intriguing young players.

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    Brett Marshall more than likely but still pretty interesting dilemma with all the question marks.

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    Last in, last out rule, so probably Marshall. I think the Cubs are hoping to slip him through waivers anyway so that they can assign him to Iowa.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    This would be a nice problem to have. If they like Marshall enough -- that is if they think he's the guy who was a top organizational prospect for the Yankees, they might go with someone like Blake Parker who would have difficulty finding innings in anything other than mop-up duty with a bullpen that features Vizcaino, Grimm, Strop, Wright, Russell, and Cabrera.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's last in, first out, but we know what you meant...

  • As a signing bonus the Cubs should buy Michael Jordan's home that they are having trouble selling and give it to Tanaka. Tell him the person who last owned this house won 6 championships for Chicago. Of course the front gate will have to be updated taking the 23 off and replacing it with Tanaka's number.

  • In reply to John57:


  • Tanaka is somewhat of a risk. Possible over use. May not be a front of rotation starter. At 20 million plus a year for 5-6 years what if he is a bust? Saying all that, it may make more sense for the Cubs to take the risk than the Yankees who would have to pay the luxury tax or the Angels who already have bloated contracts in Hamilton and Pujous.

  • In reply to Craig:

    I've been saying all along that it depends on how we grade him out internally. If Theo/Jed are convinced he's a #1, I don't think he escapes them... If we grade him out as a #2 or worse... then they're not going to get into a bidding war and overpay for that.

  • fb_avatar

    Maybe I'm trying to quell my expectations a bit, but you make a lot of very generous points. I don't, however, buy in to your analysis of the Dodgers finances. I think they're trying to get rid of Kemp and Ethier for the same reason the Cubs are trying to get rid of Samardzjia -- it's due dilligence and smart to listen to offers when cheaper versions of them exist on their roster and in the farm system. They'd also be seen as sort of selling them when they still have some value to another team, even if they'd have some salary to dump.

    And Gugenheim Baseball still has to win now... Getting Tanaka will put their rotation in a sound foundation to do so, especially given how Ryu seemed to run out of gas down the stretch and Beckett's future still up in the air health-wise. They may have a 1-2, but the 3-4-5 isn't so certain.

    I love the analysis here, but the Dodgers make the most sense based on geography, financial picture and motivation. Maybe that's me trying to talk myself down from excitement that will come if the Cubs land him.

  • In reply to Phil James:


    To me it's more than just due diligence with the Dodgers. They just don't want to pay those guys because they know it's a bad investment at this point. That doesn't mean they're hurting for that money or that they are running out of it in any shape or form, but even the Dodgers don't want to overpay players if they don't have to. For me that means that, at least to some degree, they don't want to spend money for the sake of spending it. So if they're at least a little mindful of how they invest their money, I think that they would be mindful of spending a lot to get a 4th great starter while still having to pay Greinke and trying to re-sign Kershaw. It's not the best way to use their resources, vast as they are.

  • fb_avatar

    I think this whole scenario will play out with the most skilled recruiters winning out. Tanaka will want to be comfortable and will surely look for an employer who has some positive history in making the adjustment and acclamation easier for former NPB players.
    Unfortunately for the Cubs, I can't remember much success there.
    This will be a true test of Theo & Jed's salesmanship and persuasiveness in presenting their organization's great plan. They've sold most of us here on this blog, how they do with Tanaka could be historic.

  • fb_avatar

    John, you need to look at it from Tanaka's point of view, and what his agent will likely steer him to. First, the agent is obviously going to be looking for money, both in salary and endorsements. I have to figure the money is going to be pretty close from several teams. So if the money is not drastically different between the top few offers, Tanaka's choice starts to boil down to location, winning now, winning in the future, and anything else like lifestyle comforts, etc. Obviously a West Coast team is easier for travel back to Japan for himself and relatives. Chicago can't offer that, but we are a closer commute than the East Coast teams. But then it's winning. If he chooses the Cubs, he's likely not going to have a shot at the playoffs for at least 3 years. I don't see why he would choose that over some of the contenders who will surely be in the same ballpark financially. I'd love to see him with the Cubs, but in this case, I think the new posting system hurts the Cubs. We don't know though, if the Dodgers, Angels, and Rangers will be in on him. It's possible all 3 pass, although I can't see why the Rangers would.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    How would I know what Tanaka values? For that matter, how would I have known what Darvish or Cespedes values? Neither seemed to consider most of these factors all that much. How much do we know about some relationships he may have already built with certain teams. I think this kind of reasoning has been stated before but it has been anything but predictive. Japanese players haven't all signed with the Yankees, Dodgers, or Angels -- in fact, most of them haven't.

  • fb_avatar

    The Yankees will be contenders, they'll spend the money to do it. They might not roll out $250 million payrolls anytime soon but with all the money coming off the books in the next year they have money to spend in 2015 and beyond.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Just Win, but the Yanks need to replace the players coming off the books and most or all of Arod comes back on the books in 15. With the price of WAR going up so much, the cost to get championship level players is going to be huge. They may or may not get to a $250 mil payroll, but a $240 mil payroll is actually around $265 mil after tax. You are paying for an ace every year, but getting nothing!

    This will be an issue for the Dodgers in a few years as well as the % increases every year for them.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    When the new CBA was passed in the fall of 2011, it instituted a rule that any team who was over the luxury tax limit for a 4th consecutive year pays a 50% tax on the amount they are over the limit. The Yankees were in the 40% bracket this season and just paid $29.1 million in luxury tax. They are trying to avoid the rate going up another 10% and paying an amount like that again.

    But here is the real incentive for the Yankees to get under the luxury tax limit, the CBA also states if a team goes under the limit for one season, the tax rate resets to 17.5% for the next time they exceed it.

    The Yankees have been very clear about wanting to get under the tax limit in order to reset their tax rate. Why? Because they don't have much talent coming through their system, and they know they're going to have to buy much of their team in the coming years if they want to compete. So even though they have some money coming off the books, they're going to have to spend more money to replace those expensive, declining players.

    The salary limit is current set at $189 million. According to BP/Cot's, Their payroll for 2014 currently sits at $177.7 million for 15 players, leaving $11.3 million for the remain 10 players. 5 of those players are arbitration eligible. Combined those 5 earned around $8 million last season. That brings them to just under $186 million and that doesn't include any raises those 5 might get.

    In short, the only way the Yankees will get under the luxury tax limit this year is if ARod gets suspended. His $26 million would come off the books and they could then bid on Tanaka. The decision on ARod's suspension will likely come January 13th, according to some reports. Tanaka must sign by the 24th, so there is a window for the Yankees, if Tanaka waits that long. Otherwise, the Steinbrenners can just decide to continue paying the 50% tax rate and forget about any of the savings they're were trying to get. But clearly, they don't like paying $29.1 million for nothing in return.

    So I would say the Yankees could, not will, be contenders. They have their first real shot at resetting their luxury tax percentage this season. They could just say f*#@ it, but this has been a long-standing, very public goal of their's so it shouldn't be taken lightly.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    That's a great point Quedub. I think they might just roll the dice though, try to sign tanaka, and hope for a favorable outcome with the A-rod situation. They might have decided that Tanaka is a talent worth paying the tax again if they lose the arod case, with the plan that they can get under the limit next year when it will be easier for them with money coming off the books. 50% tax is a whole lot of money they are just giving away though and that was their stated goal, so it could go either way in my opinion

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Indeed, it could go either way. I just wanted to present this story/myth of the Yankees as this financial powerhouse in the context of reality. It doesn't mean that they won't make a play with ARod's salary still on the books, but I think the facts put in check them as this insurmountable financial foe.

  • 田中。おそらく6年1.15億ドルのためのカブスと契約します。チャンスフランチャイズの顔と&ワールドシリーズの呪いを破るために魅了!

  • In reply to blackstain0661:

    Thanks, blackstain. Very insightful...

  • In reply to blackstain0661:

    Yeah I hope so. 6 years @ $115 million is probably a bit low but it's in the right range I would think.

  • The single biggest factor in Tanaka's decision is's money. That's why Japanese players come to the US. It will come down to money and the Cubs got it. This is why we have a great shot to land him.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Holy Cattle:

    Tanaka will get a large contract from whichever team he signs with, I believe money will not be his most important consideration as to which team he signs with.

  • In reply to Ray:

    I can't imagine he would give up even a few million just to have a couple hour shorter flight time from his city to Japan. If he wanted to be somewhere with a large Asian community then he could stay in Japan. Fully believe it will come down to the money, that's why they come here.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Holy Cattle:

    Time will tell.

  • Such a difficult decision - you never really know what these Japanese players are going to do until they get here (Fukudome, for example). The Cubs have really put themselves in a position where if they don't get him the off season will be seen as a failure, so they better be going all in. Hope Theo has a really good sales pitch ready......

  • Some people have mentioned location being a factor for Tanaka and while no one can say for certain (other than Tanaka himself), I'm not sure why this would even be a consideration. The baseball schedule is so full that even if he pitched for Seattle, he wouldn't ever have the opportunity to go visit Japan during the season (other than maybe the All-Star game which he may be going to anyway). And clearly, Tanaka will have the cash to live in/buy/rent multiple properties if he so chooses and can have a place in Chicago (hopefully!) and Seattle and Japan and New York and LA, etc, etc.

  • fb_avatar

    I think when FA's start to look at the intangibles after money, such as winning culture, they look at more of the "hear and now"

    There are a bunch of other teams in this sweepstakes that are poised to win in 2014 and also have strong farms systems and an arrow pointed up. The Cubs really don't offer anything special in that regard.

    They are going to have to bid the most and home that's enough for Tananka.

  • The Cubs have to roll the dice on this one. The way I see it, this kid doesn't want to come to MLB just for the money. He wants to come to MLB for the money and TO WIN. The Yankees are old and crippled and just seem to get older with every move they make. The Cubs are exactly opposite. They're young and, hopefully, have a stable of young studs in the stable just begging to run. If I were Tanaka, I would know that I'm going to get the money wherever I go. But I also want to win, year after year until I become a free agent again. That doesn't play in New York. They might win next year, but what about the year after that? The Cubs have to sell Tanaka by making sure that he knows what is in the stable. That may mean holding on to Samardzija and extending him very soon.

  • Difference in flght time from Chi-town to Tokyo and Seattle to Tokyo is 3 hours and 3 minutes. Doesn't seem like it would be that big a factor.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Difference between LA to Toyko and Chi-town to Toyko = 1 hour 40 minutes

  • fb_avatar

    I think the best chance to sign him over the yanks, is to front load the deal with an opt out at age 29 or 30, so he can sign a bigger deal. 5 years 125m, with opt out in year 3 or 4. Worst case we lose him for a draft pick, but we get him for years age 26-29, which should be prime years. Also provides due time to develop wave of our own top pitching prospects for 2017 and beyond.

  • In reply to Niren Desai:

    Hmmm...that's an interesting approach. Not a bad idea if he's willling.

  • I'm a little late to the party. A few thoughts: I like our chances to get Tanaka but feel the competitiveness of this team hinges on a lot of luck out of our lineup. I do think this is the year where we don't shop much at the deadline. I feel like we'll be competitive enough and have enough of an idea of where our farm stands that we may even be buyers this year. If we have a near .500 team and can add to it with the belief that 2015 will be the year where it all clicks, we might be buyers and sellers.

    On Shark: I think we do extend him and he gets a bad rap. Comments he made about ownership were not at all bad. Here's what he said when Feldman was traded: “I don’t think this team improves by trading Scott Feldman,” Samardzija told the Chicago Tribune. “He was one of our better pitchers. He’s thrown a lot of innings, a solid dude, a solid guy in the clubhouse. It’s a shame to see him go, and the same with Clevenger. A great dude to have around, a great teammate who played the game hard and played the right way. It’s unfortunate. Just hope the guys they get in return are comparable and bring the same attitude to the field every day that those guys brought.”

    I want Shark to take a step forward this year, get extended and be a part of the good times on the horizon. His competitiveness and support of teammates goes a long way. I much prefer players that speak their minds in this kind of professional way over company speak. That being said, if a deal comes our way that is too good to pass up...

    If they get Tanaka, trade Shark and are still able to land a nice pitcher in the offseason, we should be okay. It's hitting that needs to get to the big league level. Our Front Office is pretty solid at finding pitchers that have success in our ball park.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    I agree. I'm a fan of Samardzija. I like his competitiveness and confidence. I like that he speaks up for his teammates -- that's what I want on this team. Too often I think it gets twisted into something negative but for my money, give me a guy with that kind of talent who wants to win and has that kind of leadership potential.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed on the Shark comments. But I will add one more.

    It is time for him to step up and be the Ace/Leader of the team. It should be his team now as he is the longest tenured, one of the oldest and someone with an immense amount of talent. He has done some talking in the past about winning and talent around him, and slowly, the FO is obliging.

    It is up to him to lead this team to what he wants it to be - a World Series contender.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I like Shark and want to believe in him. But he's gonna have to start showing up in big games in a consistent way for a full season. That's what a true leader does. He wants to get paid like a #1, but he's got to pitch like one...

  • I've heard that Tanaka WANTS to be on the west coast. Kinda makes all this other stuff unimportant once Boras drives the money up with rumors of the Yankees and Cubs bidding the highest.

  • I meant Close, not Boras. Sorry

  • The Yankees are in a better position to compete in the next few years...we all assume the cubs will be good in a few years but that isn't a certainty especially with young good clubs like the cardinals and pirates in our division. Yankees will always be aggressive in the free agent market and brings Tanaka into the biggest MLB market. I don't see any other reason Tanaka would choose the Cubs over the Yankees or Dodgers other than more money. I doubt Tanaka takes much thought into the Cubs top prospects who may or may not be good down the road. I mean I am a Cubs fan and would love to see Tanaka come here but I just don't see it possibly happening.

  • Tom Verducci>INSIDE BASEBALL sobered me up quite a bit about Tanaka. Lot of miles on that arm.

  • fb_avatar

    I freaking love this blog. Every comment is like its own blog post. Amazing group of thinking baseball fans in here.

Leave a comment