Despite much publicized money woes, expect Cubs to make serious run at RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Yes, I know the Cubs are saying they don’t have money to spend but I’m not buying that yet. I’m not saying they’re going to open up the checkbook ala the Tribune pre-sale free agent extravaganza, but it is still my understanding that they will aggressively pursue players who they think fit their long term plan.  That has not changed.

The player that best fits that critetia is RHP Masahiro Tanaka

The Cubs have been active in the Asian market, landing Kyuji Fujikawa and Chang-Yon Lim, but also falling short in their pursuit of Yu Darvish and Hyun-Jin Ryu.  They also showed interest in outfielder Norichika Aoki and infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima.  They decided not to bid on Aoki and fell just short on Nakajima, again placing 2nd in their bid.

Darvish was always a long shot, though the Cubs did again come in 2nd.  The Cubs had a very realistic shot at Ryu and put it in what they felt was an excellent offer, only to be outbid by the monopoly money Dodgers.  Perhaps if you could do this over again, you would put the money earmarked for Fujikawa and combine that with the Ryu bid.  In hindsight and with all due respect to Fujikawa, who had the misfortune of suffering a major arm injury, it would have easily been worth it.

With another top free agent from the NPB on the market, can the Cubs afford to not win the bid this time?

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.

There are some in the industry who believe the Cubs may be even more aggressive than they have been in the past in the Pacific Rim market.  I’ve heard rumors on the bid being anywhere from somewhere north of what Ryu got to perhaps even approaching the bid Darvish received, though that seems unlikely.   But when you consider that some think he can fit in at the top of the rotation, that idea suddenly doesn’t seem that outlandish.

The Yankees and Rangers have been the most visible in their pursuit of Tanaka and one always has to consider the Dodgers a threat, but don’t be at all surprised if the Cubs are lying in the weeds on this one.

With growing concerns about the money issue and the pace of the rebuild, can they afford not to?   We talked about how the Cubs had a more sound process entering this season and may not be as far off as we think, but Tanaka would be a major boost to the efforts in 2014 — especially if the Cubs are also able to continue to improve the bullpen, get rebound seasons from Castro and Rizzo, and improve their OBP skills overall.

Moreover, he’s still young and can be a long term piece of the puzzle.  The 6’2″, 205 lbs RHP turns 25 in November, so he should just be entering his prime as the Cubs are getting an infusion of impact talent from their system.

Again, I don’t think it’s a matter of not having enough money.  I think it’s a matter of pursuing the right fits and there are precious few, if any, ideal fits among the big names in this year’s free agent class.  Nobody in this year’s class is a better fit for the rebuilding Cubs than Tanaka.  There may not even be a close 2nd right now.  So while the Cubs may not be awash in revenue/TV deal money yet, money is not so scarce that they will pass up on a rare opportunity to bid on a potential top of the rotation arm who is also a couple years away from entering his prime year.

And as scarce as you may think that money is, it’s not as scarce as the number of quality young starters available — especially when it will not cost a single player or draft pick in compensation.  Expect the Cubs to seize this opportunity the way they tried to seize on the Anibal Sanchez opportunity last season.  That bid fell short, but it wasn’t for lack of effort or resources– the Cubs even tried to overpay for him, beating the previous offer by some $30M.  Ultimately the Tigers decided they could not afford to lose him.  Similarly, I think the Cubs feel like they can’t afford to pass on this rare opportunity.  The money will be there if the Cubs decide that Tanaka can indeed be a piece of the puzzle.  Of that, I have little doubt.

If some scouts are right and think he can be a top of the rotation starter, it would make the Cubs rotation look pretty strong in 2014 and over the next few years.  Here’s how it may look next year with their current ages.

  1. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, 25
  2. Jeff Samardzija, RHP, 28
  3. Edwin Jackson, RHP, 29
  4. Travis Wood, LHP, 26
  5. Jake Arrieta, RHP, 27

That rotation would easily be good enough to compete in the NL Central.  Edwin Jackson’s peripherals are similar to those he has put up his entire career, so it’s reasonable to assume he should be the same Edwin Jackson we’ve always known again.  Samardzija has “struggled” as the team’s #1 starter and hasn’t taken that 2nd leap forward yet — but that’s not to say he still can’t.   His peripherals are also similar to last season, when we were thinking he could be a top of the rotation arm.

With both Jackson and Samardzija, we’ve fallen into that trap of expecting linear progress — and when it doesn’t happen, we are disappointed and lower our expectations.  Then when they rebound or improve the next year, we are suddenly surprised again.  I’m expecting some regression with Travis Wood, but I think he should slot into that 4th spot nicely and the hope is that Jake Arrieta takes that 5th spot in April — but perhaps with a chance to move up higher in the rotation during the season.  There would also be excellent depth behind them with Carlos Villanueva, Justin Grimm, Chris Rusin, and Kyle Hendricks.

The question would then be whether the Cubs could build a good enough team around them to take that big step forward in 2014.

Filed under: Rumors/Speculation

Tags: Masahiro Tanaka


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  • Tanaka is exactly what I'm hoping for. It doesn't mean the Cubs should do what ever it takes. If they evaluate him as more of a mid-rotation starter I'd expect them to put in a serious bid, but there's a good chance there's another team or that would like him even more and be willing to spend more than the Cubs accordingly.

    That said Tanaka and Granderson is my dream off season.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    I think he's a perfect fit but I agree, they can't get all crazy with a bid -- but I do expect them to be more competitive than they were with Darvish.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Why weren't they as competitive with Darvish in the first place? What has changed?

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    They did come in 2nd on the bid, though it was a distant 2nd. Texas just blew everyone away but I think it was the perfect timing for them -- they needed a top of the rotation guy, they had the money, and they were in contention. The Cubs aren't there yet but the timing is better now than it was for Darvish.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, would you compare Tanaka closer to a Darvish, or more similar to say, a Nomo or a DiceK?

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I think he's a notch below Darvish based on what I've been able to piece together but perhaps better than Ryu, whom the Cubs also liked last offseason.

  • John,

    If they make an all out effort for Tanaka and succeed, do you see anything meaningful they can do to improve their offensive production? I absolutely believe Tanaka could/would significantly improve an already decent staff (IMO), but I'm not sure how many games that really nets us given the Team's offensive woes.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Castro and Rizzo hitting close to how good they did 2 years ago would go a long way towards fixing those offensive problems.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Haha! I said the same thing -- didn't see your post.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    I think some of that improvement has to be internal. They need Rizzo, Castro to bounce back. They need Castillo to continue to build on his strong second half -- and perhaps add some power. Need a repeat year from Schierholtz and something good out of the Sweeney/Bogusevic/Lake combo.

    But it would be really nice to add an OBP bat with some pop if they could, preferably LH.

  • They could offer Sanchez $80 mil as you point out, no reason they can't make a $35 mil posting fee bid on this kid. As you rightly point out, young, top of the rotation arms aren't available in free agency. This is one of those chances to spend money wisely if you have scouted this kid and believe he is legit.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    The Sanchez bid tells me they will go after guys they feel are long term fits for the organization and everything I hear suggests Tanaka may fit that description too. And it's a heck of a lot cheaper to get a Tanaka than a Price, an acquistion that would cost a lot in terms of both prospects and money.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And as you rightly point out, if you get Tanaka, you have a pretty young rotation without a lot of miles on their arms (sans Edwin Jackson). If Tanaka pans out even 80% as much as Darvish has, you aren't looking to spend big money on pitching for a while

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Would 35 be enough?

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Ryu was 25, Darvish was 50. I just guessed at 35, he won't cost more than Darvish

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I've actually heard a pretty wide range among those close to the situation. I was talking to Don Olsen, who scouts out there in the Pacific Rim and he's not sure where it can go -- going to depend on a number of factors.

  • What I love is tanaka's age (and of course his stuff),the cubs can probably pull a oakland athletics like they did with cespedes and come out the weeds and snatch tanaka.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Good point and it may take something creative like Oakland did with Cespedes.

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    My sources say the Cubs are going to sell Starlin Castro to the Yankees for $125 million to ease their cash concerns.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That will fix two media narratives at once!!

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    So CubsTalk was right after all...

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    .......But a wee bit off on the 88 wins/Wild Card thing.......

  • I think a legit FA OF would go a long way to addressing their offensive woes. I'd hope for Castro, Rizzo rebounds. And Barney to suck a little less, holding the job for 2.5 months before Baez relegates him to the bench. I have no idea what the Cubs have in Lake, but I'd like to see more so they can figure that out.
    Around the horn if we're talking
    C - Castillo (hopefully with Navarro backing up)
    IF - Rizzo, Barney (Baez), Castro, Valbuena
    OF - Lake/Sweeney, Granderson, Schieroltz
    They could cobble together a decent line up out of that.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    If Rizzo and Castro bounce back that alone makes that lineup a lot better but I agree a veteran presence would be nice if available. I don't know if Granderson is a player of interest but he does fit in some ways.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    But it doesn't appear that the Cubs have the wherewithal or will to practically sign both Granderson and Tanaka. But if they could AND if existing players raised their offensive games as both you and Ike have suggested, boy, that might make 2014 reasonably competitive.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    I would hope there would be another option at third instead of Valbuena. In my humble opinion Valbuena is more of a utility player. I'd like to see Mike Olt or Josh Vitters have a great spring an one of them come North as the starting third baseman for the Cubs.

  • In reply to EasternCub:

    I think Olt is much more likely to get a shot than Vitters at this point, though I think they'll both be there in the spring barring a trade of some kind.

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    I totally agree John. There doesn't seem to be anyone who fits what the Cubs need better than Tanaka, seemingly anyways. If he hits and he is near the level of Darvish, we could realistically make a run at the Central in '15 and be the proverbial "team that no one wants to play" as soon as next year, assuming we have one or two of our guys up by the end of '14.

  • In reply to Daniel Svendsen:

    He would really make that rotation fall together nicely if he is indeed a #1 or at least a #2 (assuming we call Shark a #3 for now). They could be a tough team with good pitching and good defense...then if they could only get some timely hits!

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    When would the bids for Tanaka be due? Also, when would we find out who won the bids?

  • In reply to Brian Szewczyk:

    He's not officially a free agent, but most expect him to be this winter.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks John! Great job, as usual.

  • In reply to Brian Szewczyk:

    Thank you, Brian.

  • Who would be legitimate bidders on Tanaka?
    Red Sox
    Yankees ?- I think they are still lowering payroll
    Mets ?- don't think their financial house is in order
    Rangers - do they need another starter?
    Dodgers - see Rangers
    Angels - would make sense
    Mariners - save their money for offense
    Jays - blew their wad last off season and near maxed out on payroll
    Tigers - No
    Phillies - ?

    I'd think Angels, Cubs, Yankees, Phillies as having the biggest needs. And the Cubs might have the most financial flexibility of the bunch.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    My understanding is that the Rangers and Yankees are in on him and that everyone assumes the Dodgers will be too.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd seen someone the Rangers rumored interest refuted (can't remember where). It would make sense. They have a deep rotation already and a more pressing OF need.

    I've also heard about the Yankees. I was just trying to figure out from the usual suspects who might be in it. I think the Dodgers is just talk that they're in on everyone right now. I'd heard of them as front runners for Abreu despite having A-Gon.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Well, let's just say what the Rangers are saying and what they are actually doing are two different things. For a team not interested in pursuing Tanaka, they sure seem to be interested in watching him pitch. I consider their refuting statement a smoke screen.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Re: Rangers - Interesting. Besides those teams you mentioned have you heard of anyone else?

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Just Yankees/Rangers and the Dodgers part was speculation because everyone figures the Dodgers are a threat for any FA.

  • I think the bids for Darvish were submitted early December and winning bid/team announced mid December. Something like 7th then the 14th.

  • It looks like he keeps his hands low when he goes for the off-speed stuff and higher when he goes for the heat. Or maybe it just looks that way. He solid, tho. I'd take him.

  • In reply to lokeey:

    Hard to say, especially from this kind of video but even if it were so it seems that would be easily fixed.

  • I agree with you John in that the Cubs will find the dollars to chase talent that they see fits well with Theo & Jed's baseball philosophy. IMO, Tanaka fits right in with their philosophy so they will be players on the likes of Tanaka. With that said, there are two issues they must be concerned with. One, it comes down to a bid for Tanaka which is a crapshoot where there are no prizes for finishing second. So, a team like the Dodgers or the Yankees (less so today) can make a ridiculous offer that blows all other offers away. Obviously, this is out of the FO's control but will prevent us from acquiring the talent we need. Second, the FO is in tough place in that if they do win a deal to bring Tanaka to Wrigley he has to be the real deal. I say this because - although Theo & Jed weren't involved in the deal - they can't have another $48MM miss like we experienced with Kosuke Fukudome. The Fukudome signing set the franchise back & was an embarrassment so the pressure is on Theo & Jed to get a deal of this magnitude right.

  • In reply to Pepitone8:

    I'm very concerned with those issues, but at the same time you can't be concerned with the past failures of what was essentially a different organization. You evaluate each talent on it's own and if you think Tanaka is worth X amount of dollars, then you need to bid on him.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Ok, forget fukudome - does theo feel once burned, twice shy because of dice-k?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    No. They can't think that way. Every team needs to evaluate each individual player on his own merits. Theo also bid on Darvish -- that would have worked okay had they won the bid. They also bid big on Ryu and would have won it had it not been for the Dodgers.

  • "The Fukudome signing set the franchise back & was an embarrassment so the pressure is on Theo & Jed to get a deal of this magnitude right."

    If this is the thinking, we're doomed. ALL free agent signings come with risk. We can't not go after people because of previous mistakes. (BTW, the Kosuke Fukudome mistake is relatively low on the scale of things that set this franchise back)

  • In reply to djriz:

    Seriously - 4yrs & $48M for a bust of a corner OFer is "low on the scale of things"??? Your last name must be Gates or you're a Yankees fan! Not sure what franchise - other than the Yankees or the Dodgers - consider 4yrs @ $48M chump change as you indicate.

  • In reply to Pepitone8:

    He had an OBP of 360+ for his first 3 seasons, while playing solid defense. No that's not 12million good, but he was probably worth 7-8 million. There is a heck of a lot worse.

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    In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    I agree....Fukudome was an overpay, but he wasn't a complete waste. He gave us 5 wins, which isn't worth $48 mil, but it's worth $15-25, give or take, in FA dollars

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    C'mon Senator - Fukudome was not a corner OFer & nothing more than a 4th or 5th OFer at best. The guy didn't produce: 2008 - Avg: .257 w/ 10 HRs, 2009 - Avg: .259 w/ 11 HRs, 2010 - Avg: .263 w/ 13 HRs, & 2011 -Avg: .262 w/ 8 HRs. Wouldn't pay $7-8M per yr for this type of production.

  • In reply to Pepitone8:

    you can't pick two random stats and evaluate the totality of his contract on them. Average and hrs are nice, but they dont tell the whole picture. He was consistently a bit above average offensively and most people would say he was a bit above average defensively. He was a decent player that the cubs paid too much for and didnt trade soon enough.

  • In reply to Andrew:

    Random stats - there's nothing random about batting avg & HRs & I was being kind not to include RBI b/c in all fairness Kosuke led off quite a bit. In it's purest form a corner OFer is a power hitter that drives in runs. Kosuke did neither of these thus he was never a corner OFer. Additionally, if you can't hit for power & drive in runs, the only chance you should have at playing a corner OF position is if you hit for a high avg & steal a bunch of bases - again, Kosuke did neither of these. Let's face it - the only reason Fukudome started for the Cubs was b/c we were paying him $12M/yr. And, once his contract expired w/ the Cubs he never held (consistently) another starting job. I'm sorry but I have trouble with fans thinking/accepting players like Kosuke Fukudome, Darwin Barney, Luis Valbuena, etc. as our every day starters. These guys are bench players & especially Kosuke because he played on much better teams. Heck, Kosuke (without his big contract) wouldn't have even played on our crummy team this yr. because clearly Schierholtz, Sweeney, Bogusevic, DeJesus, & Soriano were better.

  • In reply to Pepitone8:

    Basically, I look at Schieroltz the same way I did Fukudome. Neither of them world beaters, but they don't hurt the team and get the job done. The difference is one is on a 2 year 12 million deal, the other a 4 year 48 million. We are happy about one and upset about the other. If he was on 3 year 24 million deal no one would have cared. He was fine but over paid (welcome to MLB).

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Totally agree. The 2008 version of Kosuke would have fit quite nicely on this year's team. He took his walks. Played good D. Ran the bases. The playoff berth he took part in certainly doesn't hurt, especially financially. If they would have won it he'd be a Chicago hero instead of a bust even if he put up the exact same numbers for the remainder of his contract!

  • Absolutely agree with you John! There really is no looking back & I have much greater confidence in the current FO's ability to identify and evaluate talent than past management.

  • In reply to Pepitone8:

    Me too. Much more thorough scouting with this group and it does give some more confidence.

  • Anybody have a good estimate of the 2014 payroll assuming arb increases? I think it looks like $65-$70M assuming some nice increases. If we assume payroll will sit around $90M next year - that is a nice sum to play with.

    Also, with the remaining Sori money off the books next year - its even better. Tanaka fits what they need and don't really have coming through the system - impact pitching.

    That said, I'm weary or Asian pitchers and I assume Theo is as well. Darvish is the only guy that has lived up to the hype (not enough data on Ryu yet).

    They need to spend their money somewhere though...

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    I'm hoping for 100 - 110 million if they get the players they want. Granted I don't think the Cubs will spend the payroll just for the sake of it. I think they'll target 2 or 3 significant pieces, but if they swing and miss, they'd roll with a 80-90 million payroll.

  • Shhhh. Let the Cubs say they can't afford him, so they can surprise other teams with the winning bid.

    Agree John, Tanaka is exactly the kind of player this regime should and will go after.

    A blind auction is inherently a crapshoot though, unfortunately.

  • In reply to MrBillySir:

    Haha! You're right. Maybe I should continue the Cubs are broke theme until the offseason is over.

    It is very much a crapshoot. I'm not a fan of the blind auction.

  • Kuoroda has been pretty successful.
    Nomo and Matsuzaka had their moments before injury.
    Iwakuma has been great for Seattle.
    This fear of Japanese pitchers thing is nonsense.

    I could say Brandon Webb, Dontrelle Willis, Tim Lincecum, Jake Peavy all went to crap after winning the Cy Young. Boy I hope the Cubs don't get any former Cy Young winners.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Willis never won a Cy Young.

  • As much as I'd love them to get Tanaka--it would be a coup for them to snag him--I think the Cubs in some ways need a guy like Choo more. The Cubs have a decent rotation at the moment and there is more help on the way. Hendricks is close to MLB ready and could be pretty good. Cabrera and Vizcaino could be ready to join the Cub rotation in late 2014-early 2015, and it's not out of the question that Edwards and Johnson split 2014 between AA and AAA and are ready for 2015. All these guys have the potential to be very good. So, Tanaka is more a luxury than a need. Or maybe he's a need, but not the biggest need.

    The outfield is a different beast entirely. Soler is promising, but hasn't yet put up dominant numbers anywhere or shown himself to be the kind of guy we can expect to take a huge leap forward in a single year. Bryant is probably very close to the bigs (late 2014?), but might end up at 3B instead of the OF--although he could potentially take Schierholtz' spot in 2015. Realistically, however, we need at least one corner OFer for 2014-2015 (and possibly beyond). And Choo is exactly what the Cubs need: A LH OBP guy to get on base ahead of the power hitters.

    I suppose if the Cubs land Tanaka, that really expands their options in terms of how the deal with Samardzija moving forward. Also, the best way to improve depth is by adding a top flight guy and pushing everyone beneath him down a notch, which is what Tanaka would do to guys like Arrieta and Rusin (possibly as well as others). So, I'd love to get him, but I'd feel better adding Choo. Maybe that's short-sighted, because we would have many years of control of Tanaka, and he's very young, but the Cubs just have a gaping hole on the roster that Choo is the perfect fit for.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    I think Choo would be a great fit at the right price and years on this contract.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    Choo is 31....not exactly the person I like to give money for during rebuilding. Indeed, I am intrigued at the logic that you would rather spend money on a 31 year old OF who has put up good but not great numbers over a 25 year old pithcer with TOR stuff.

    Assuming Bryant gets to the majors in 2014 is a big assumption. It isn't out of the question that Edwards and Johnson make the bigs in 2015 either. Of course none of these players have ever played above A ball, so those are big assumptions. And if they do make it, will they all be immediately successful? History would say that is unlikely.

    Thus Choo will most likely be 35 by the time these players are really hitting their stride. Not sure how he is a good fit.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    Interesting point SVA. Getting Tanaka could help them when its time to say yes or no on new contract for samardzija...

  • In reply to cheerupcubstalk:

    It certainly gives them an option if things don't work out with Samardzija.

  • Interesting that Travis Wood - who leads this staff in nearly everything but over-valued strikeouts (WHIP, ERA, HRs per 9 innings, GB/FB ratio) - is considered only third best in your assessment. He ranks behind even a pitcher with an ERA near 5.00. That's a whole lot of regression to predict. Why not then trade Travis to get back a haul if you expect him to become worse than Edwin Jackson with his career 4.45 ERA?

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    I'm not a fan of ERA, It's not an accurate stat to use for projecting future performance. It's a results oriented stat that can be misleading and is partially dependent on your current environment and luck. Strip away wins and ERA, two outdated statistics and Jackson has basically been the same pitcher he's always been except for some struggles with command this year.

    I think Travis Wood is a solid #4 starter and he does it cheaply. No reason to trade him. Those are the kinds of guys you want on the team right now. In fact, I hope they find a way to extend him for a few years. I think he can be good for years to come.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Well ERA was just one stat I pointed to, but pick and choose as you wish. But "same pitcher that he's always been" means Jackson is a pitcher with a 1.437 WHIP and career No. 4 pitcher on pretty much every staff he's been on. Not to beat him up, but it is what it is. I think you are undervaluing Travis Woods' year, as well as that all of his stats and command are on a three-year positive trend as he approaches his peak years (and peak motivation before free agency or to get an early Cubs extension). Even if he "slips" to his 2012 performance next year that is still better than Jackson's average year. I'd put Travis No. 3 in a blink (if we got Tanaka)... with deep reservations that Samardzija has earned being considered our No. 2. In an ideal world free from Shark's ego, you would put Travis in between Tanaka and Samardzija, if only as a change of pace for hitters during a series.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Well said Skit. Jackson's "control problems" aren't aberrations for this year. He lacks consistency.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    I think the reaction to Jackson is largely a reaction to a 7-15, 4.91 year. If he had the same peripherals with a 14-12 record and a 3.75 ERA we wouldn't be hearing the same things. Analysis tends to focus too strongly on one year results, which can be a trap.

  • I think the changing dynamics of FA created by the new CBA has handcuffed us more than any 'lack of funds". We can't just draft and pay over slot anymore. We exploited that loophole in the IFA this year and now they'll likely close that up with an impending Intl draft...

    Anyways, I can't fault them or blame lack of money for losing out on Darvish. Seriously, who in their right mind was anticipating a posting fee like that? So I'd expect them to go hard after this Tanaka kid and he certainly seems to fit what we need. I read Badlers report on him, and it's his FB that has some scouts worried. Apparently, he doesn't get much natural movement on that thing. So I think it all comes down to how our scouts feel about him. As Badler notes, even with a low/mid 90's flat FB... he is a #2. If he had Shark/Arrieta/Cabrera movement on that thing.... He'd be a #1.

    For the OF'ers.... I think a 1yr or 1yr + option make good deal for either Corey Hart or Cruz would be exactly what our Offense needs for 2014.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Hoosier, I read the Badler assessment on Tanaka and the "flat fastball" aspect too. Like you, that's the only caveat I see though.
    Even as a 25-year-old #3, he would be a good investment, considering the lack of MLB-ready starters available on this planet.

  • In reply to Cubfucius:

    That is not what I have seen from video or from people who have seen him live.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Here is the link to the BA article:
    There's also a followup piece on BA on his most recent outing, where he won albeit without having his best stuff.

    Not saying Tanaka's flawed, nor flawless. Just citing some informed sources.

  • In reply to Cubfucius:

    That's a very good article. I will say that while there's a general consensus, there's always going to be a variety of opinion on any player from scout to scout. I heard two different opinions and they'd worked together for awhile, so it can get interesting. I think whenever a pitcher doesn't strike out as many guys as his stuff would indicate you'll find different explanations for it -- one of those reasons could be that flat fastball while others may have a different explanation.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Clint Hulsey (retweeted by you, so thank you!) did a nice job (since there's no Pitch F/X data) of breaking down his motion/delivery and some comps, etc...

    There's a lot to like here, but several scouts commenting that his FB is flat and then the charts Clint used from Yahoo show Tanaka leaves the ball up in the zone... A flat FB up in the zone is not a good recipe for success in MLB, especially at Wrigley. So that's my only concern about going balls out after this kid. However, I trust our FO to make the correct choices about his stuff, adjustments, etc.. and act appropriately.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Clint does a nice job on prospects many of us haven't seen or heard as much about. He's a good read.

    That could well be an issue and that is the opinion of a few scouts. It's definitely something to keep an eye on.

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    If they sign Tanaka, the rotation and the bullpen should be good enough to compete. Parker, Gregg, Russell, Strop, Lim, Rosscup, Villanueva, Rusin, eventually Fujikawa, Cabrera -- a lot of good options there.

    It all comes down to the offense, and right now, the Cubs look pretty far away from even being average on that side of the ball. IF Castro and Rizzo break out and IF Castillo maintains the success he's had this year with a .355 BABIP and IF Lake, Sweeney, and Schierholtz can combine to be at least serviceable in the outfield, then maybe we could be average next year on offense.

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    I'd be curious to know how many pitches Tanaka threw at Kohsien in any given spring or fall tournament.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    That doesn't seem to be a big concern among any of the teams involved right now. Given the number of successful pitchers coming from the Pacific Rim, I don't think it's going to be much of a factor.

  • I TOTALLY agree with everything you wrote here John. While it looks like this FO hasn't been aggressive on the free agent market, that's not entirely true. They just have a specific profile in mind and when somebody fits what they are looking for, they've pursued. Moreover, I'm not sure anybody has fit more what they're looking for than Tanaka since they've been here. The timing, the age, the talent, the position... all seems to add up. I'm REALLY hoping for this signing.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    Yep...exactly. Seems like the right time to take this kind of chance.

  • Great article, John. Hopefully the FO decides he's their #1 target. I think they should spend whatever they think they have to to get this guy. If they have to overbid by 10MM, overbid by 10MM. Until I start to get phone calls form the front office trying to raise money to sign a guy, I could care less how much they spend and on who. This guy seems to be right in the wheelhouse. Perfect age. In general I think they should sell out for a number one guy sometime soon whether it be Tanaka, Price, Kershaw (if that ever miraculously comes to pass), whoever. Its just so rare to win a world series without a perennial Cy Young candidate. Maybe Tanaka's never a number one but it seems like he has a high floor so he's not gonna kill you on a 5 year deal. Hopefully he pitches on par with Darvish and the Cubs win ballgames. Darvish has definitely made this guy a couple of million over the past two years. Hopefully it comes from Chicago!

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Thanks Ben. I agree. I wouldn't be averse to a slight overbid here, much as they did with Sanchez.

  • Would love to see Tanaka in Cubbie Blue. Choo and some more offense from within the system added to Tanaka would really be nice. I think the Cubs have a good chance to be at least a .500 team next year if a bit of new blood can come in to help the bullpen and the offense. Would love to see Baez, Bryant and Olt on the major league squad by the end of the year in 2014. Guys like Rosscup and Hendricks could be real pieces by then too.

  • Honestly there is not a single MLB FA available that I would want to drop a big contract on in the next two years. Tanaka seems to fit every criteria we should be looking for. Just put in the type of bid people fear the Dodgers will put in. I don't care if people call it a huge overpay. Just get him. If he doesn't work out, he won't cripple us financially. Even with the resource limits that they have, they can still afford one mistake, they are not the Rays. I'd rather they take a chance on a potential home run like Tanaka then on a 30 year old declining player.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Agreed. I think they can afford to take a risk here considering the potential reward.

  • FA's are like women and the city bus, there will always be another one come along. Ace' s and left handed OF' s. If the Cubs can't sign at their future worth, then catch the next one.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Not 25 year old FAs with a great track record in the next best league out there. Those are pretty rare. I think the combination of age/talent with Tanaka doesn't come around that often. Sanchez and Jackson were younger and we saw the Cubs seize those opportunities. Even if there is a below 30 arm every year worth pursuing, it doesn't mean you shouldn't go all out. You have to take those opportunities when you can -- and when they're 25 and not even in their prime yet, that's even more rare. I fully expect the Cubs to try and seize this opportunity. There may be another city bus, but this is the newer one with the clean seats and the functioning air-conditioner.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Can't argue with that!

  • I'd rather save the money for offense.

    This is a 85-90 loss team next year is the offense isn't upgraded. We don't have a major league caliber 2B/3B. Schierholtz is having a good year but I don't think he matches it next year. Castro improving is kind of default but if I had to bet between him hitting .260 or .300 next year I'm emptying my account on .260. Lake is a wildcard. Our other OF spot is going to be someone who should be a 4th OF. I expect Castillo to continue to be solid. Rizzo should improve too. You have to imagine our best bench bat Navarro leaves for greener pastures, he already said he wants to start, and with the way he's playing you have to say someone gives him a shot.

    This team isn't going to be a .500 team without significant offense upgrades.

  • In reply to GoCubsGo:

    The goal isn't to be a .500 team. The goal is to win a World Series. No matter what the FO does this off season, there is virtually nothing they can do to outside of emptying the farm system they just built up to trade for veterans.

    So the goal next season is to make an incremental improvement. Develop current guys. Bring in young guys to help build for the latter part of 2015 and be ready to go for it 2016 and beyond.

    I know that isn't what you and many want to hear, but to think the FO will sign Choo and Grandy to 5 year contracts is ridiculous and not wise at all.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I know the goal is to win the World Series. I'm speaking on next year. The goal next year isn't to win the World Series, at least not realistically, it's to take a step forward, with this offense they'll just be treading water in the same place.

    I don't want Granderson.

    What's wrong with Choo though? He has double the amount of walks of everyone on the team besides Rizzo, Top 5 in all of baseball for OBP. Sounds like a guy the front office would be interested in. Actually it has been reported that they're going after him this off-season. What's so "ridiculous" about Choo?

    I believe next year is Dale's last guaranteed year before his option. You can't give him this offense again and expect him to win. I know the front office doesn't do all things to appease the fans but it will be very unpopular for the Cubs to get another 90 loss season, which is what I see with this pathetic excuse for an offense, and to exercise the option. You have to give the man some bullets to work with.

  • In reply to GoCubsGo:

    i have nothing against Choo at all. He is a good player. He will be 31 next year which is fine, but by the time the Cubs will be competing for a Championship, he will be 35 and the downside of his career.

    If Choo wants to sign a two year contract, sign him up. But do you think that is what he wants? This will be his last chance for some big cash and will not settle for a short term deal.

    So i would ask you, would you sign him to a 4 or 5 year deal if that is what he is demanding?

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I don't see nothing wrong with 4/5 years. 35 isn't that old. It might not be prime but since when do championship teams only field prime players? You need vets like that. His pitch recognition to take walks isn't going to deteriorate by age 35. There are players that are very productive at age 35, it is by no means a death sentence.

  • In reply to GoCubsGo:

    I would be fine with 3 yrs /$39M but that would be about it. I am sure someone out there would be willing to pay more for longer, but I just don't think that it is wise for the team to stick their neck out and commit to a player whose performance could drop off with age.

  • In reply to GoCubsGo:

    I think they're still at the point where they need to collect the best long term assets out there and that right now is Tanaka. They're not good enough to reach for need yet and every position player out there is a bit of a reach.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    They aren't going to be good enough to reach for need for years then. I'm not one of the people that believe Baez, Bryant etc will be here and productive by Day 1. They will struggle. Having half of your line-up as rookies is going to keep this team below .500 for the foreseeable future, using that timeline, I'd say Year 3 of the uber prospects being up here is when we see results start to get good. 2015 is unrealistic otherwise.

  • In reply to GoCubsGo:

    I don't think it will take that long. They'll start to turn it around before the prospects get to Chicago. They should still be in the phase of collecting assets. Cubs still in spot where they're looking for long term value -- such as a 25 year old potential TOR, rather than than overpaying for a short term need. Getting a guy like Choo, Ellsbury, Granderson, or whomever. That only makes sense under the right circumstance -- low years, moderate salary, and preferably no comp pick.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    The other beautiful thing about Tanaka is that, at 25 next season, he perfectly fits in with Castro and Rizzo to form a young core that will, hopefully, come together at exactly the right moment. Add in Arrieta and Shark (or whatever we get in exchange for him) and it's a very strong rotation to match up with our bombers.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Exactly. The timing seems perfect. And he'll still be in his prime when prospects start filtering in.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    And the one thing we really don't have anywhere close (maybe Blackburn) is a guy that can legitimately sit at the top of the rotation and go head to head with Verlander or Wainwright. No guarantees, but Tanaka could be that guy for us. I really hope they get him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agreed. Cubs have a solid staff, but you want that guy with plus stuff and plus command at the top. Tanaka can be that kind of guy. Shark, Arrieta, and EJax have plus stuff, but lack of command makes them more middle of the rotation types.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I've heard they're targeting Hoffman in the next draft (you probably know more than I do), so that could be a really nice two headed monster sooner rather than later.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Hoffman is a guy they like but there's a long way to go. Last year Gray wasn't even a first rounder at this time (though much of the rest of the top 10 didn't change a whole lot)

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I assume if they didn't take Gray it will take a miracle to get them to go outside of guys already on the scouting radar. Now that I've said that, they'll undoubtedly go for a helium guy.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    if it's close, they prefer guys they have a long history on. Bryant was a guy they liked forever. Same with Appel.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm tired of every top free agent being called overpaid. You never hear someone say a top free agent signed for a good price. It's always "overpaid this and overpaid that". It's like a reflex, they aren't all overpaid.

    The prospects are supposed to get here 2015. That TOR pitcher isn't going to make them a .500 team by the end of next season because he can't hit. The Cubs can't hit. No pitcher is going to solve that.

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    In reply to GoCubsGo:

    You've proposed signing Choo. A platoon outfielder isn't going to have a ton of impact on the lineup as a whole, either.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He's an everyday player, you must be thinking of someone else.

    He's on pace to play 155 games this year, some platoon huh.

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    In reply to GoCubsGo:

    He's hitting .190/.325/.222 against lefties, and a career average of .239/.335/.335. The way they've used guys like DeJesus and Schierholtz, I find it hard to believe they won't platoon him.

  • In reply to GoCubsGo:

    He's not a platoon player.

    Remind me, who does he platoon with now?

    If you think he would be a platoon player with the Cubs you should reword to say "future platoon player" because he is not one right now.

    That OBP vs. lefties fits right in with the average Cub. He'll play everyday.

  • In reply to GoCubsGo:

    I have to disagree with your overall point about spending the big money on offense. Young, controllable, impact bats are the strength of the organization. There should be good young hitters "on the cheap" for the next five years. They have to get front line pitching. Even with this offense, the Cubs would likely be a winning team if they had one of the top five pitching staff's in the game. I'm not against improvement in any facet but I think the larger portion of any upgrade money should be spent on pitching.

  • I missed the party on this post - big time difference over here in Japan. I've noted on other posts that, having seen a lot of these guys, I think Darvish was a once in a generation guy from Japan. Tanaka is very good, but not quite Darvish level. The #2 with #1 potential sounds about right. As all have noted, it is very hard to pick up pieces like this in FA nowadays, so it sure would be nice to see him in a Cubs uniform.

    Now, Tanaka is having an absolutely incredible year over here. While W-L and ERA aren't the stats of choice, he's 19-0 with an ERA of 1.20. If he is posted, under this crapshoot of a blind auction system, I think the posting fee is going to be in the Darvish/Dice-K range - $50m or more.

    It will be interesting see to how valuable Theo & Jed think Tanaka is, and how they play the blind auction, especially after they bid and lost on Darvish and Ryu.

  • In reply to TokyoCraig:

    Thanks Craig. I remember scouts here giving Darvish the same 2 label with a chance to be a #1. One scout thinks he could be as good as Darvish -- but he was well in the minority. #2 seems most likely but as you say, the Cubs could definitely use that, especially one that will be 25 next year.

    The bid, however, will be interesting to follow.

  • Well, this is going to take some of the oomph out my article tomorrow!

    I think Tanaka is the perfect fit if they really believe he's a TOR guy. He's young, so he should be entering his peak years, as opposed to Ellsbury/Choo that should be in decline.

    While I feel like our starting depth is very good, we are missing out on a TOR guy and Tanaka can fill that role. Additionally, he's not blocking anyone like Ellsbury or Choo might.

    Just seems like a perfect fit for this team going forward.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Ha ;) Sorry. I actually had this written for few days now and finally had a moment to publish with a day off.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Same with my article!

    Oh well, I like your thinking!

  • Ricketts being interviewed during the Tennessee playoff game. Biggest surprise of the interview is that this is his first eyeballs on Baez opportunity.
    I haven't gleaned any Easter eggs in his replies, but maybe there are some semi-hidden goodies in the interview for this frame (top of 6th).

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    That's not really a surprise, Ricketts has nothing to do with the player/baseball side of the business. He is going to that game as a fan, and probably to discuss some biz with the Smokies.

  • theres been talk about changes to the posting system, but if it stays the same then it is a no brainer in my mind to go all out for tanaka. (by all out i dont mean go crazy and bid 50mil, but i think 35-40 is reasonable)

    the posting system offers the cubs a chance to get a guy who at worst should be a good #3 for a fraction of the cost (at least as far as the cap is concerned). darvish is making a little over 9 mil a year on a 6 year deal, whoever signs tanaka will probably sign him for something similar. and i know that a lot of people arent happy with the edwin jackson deal, but 23mil for 40% of a rotation sounds like a pretty decent bargain to me.

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    In reply to jshmoran:

    As I understand it, the changes are that they may cap what you can bid in the posting process. If more than one team bits the maximum, all of those teams get to negotiate with the player. It seems like that helps the Cubs, because then they know exactly what they have to beat instead of dealing with the Dodgers throwing out $60 million in monopoly money.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    i look at it as being both good and bad, if the cubs get to negotiate his contract against multiple teams its fair to assume that one team might overpay greatly in AAV.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I've heard that talk too. the biggest stumbling block I see is the opposition from the NPB. They really have no incentive to change the system if it's going to limit the money that comes back to them in any way.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    i dont anticipate it changing for the same reason, especially because interest in players from the NPB seems to be increasing, why would they handicap themselves.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    And a moot point with respect to Tanaka. I haven't heard about any changes coming soon, as in this offseason, to the NPB posting system.

    On a related note, Tanaka goes for his 20th win tonight (against no losses and a few no decisions) versus rookie 2-way phenom Otani. Some of you might remember he was the high schooler last year telling the world he was going straight to the US, and the Dodgers and one or two other teams were super keen on him. He ended up signing with Nippon Ham (Darvish's former team) after they convinced him to stay in Japan - I assume with a pitch that they would post him in 4 or 5 years and that would be a better path to the majors versus traveling through the minors in the US. It turns out they also said they would allow him to play both ways - outfield and pitching. He has been so-so in both so far this season.

  • Concerns about the pace of the rebuild? Is stationary a pace?

  • A rebuild involves the entire organization, not just the won-loss record of the big league club.

  • It'll be interesting to see what the Cubs end up bidding.

    I'm guessing $54M. Even though he's not as good as Darvish, if Tanaka is a good as we think he is, some other team will still probably bid $50M.

    Anyone have a more educated guess? (If there is such a thing.)

  • In reply to MrBillySir:

    That's a solid guess!

  • I stand convinced that Tanaka is the kind of fit that the Cubs should chase, but at those prices I hope doesn't suck or get injured. It will give the organization another big contract to crawl through after years of shedding.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    That's always the scary part about FAs. I guess the only thing you can say is that guys typically get hurt less when they are 25 then when they are over 30, so that mitigates the risk, but no way to avoid it completely.

  • That veteran presence could be had in Choo,he would fix OBP for us and give us that coveted lead off guy.and all he costs is money. That would work for me.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    He'd be a good fit at the right years/price.

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    In reply to TheRiot2:

    He'll probably cost us money *and* a draft pick, to be fair.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's my hang-up -- that he gets that QO, which seems pretty likely right now.

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    Man that video of him shows me he has some very nasty stuff. Got that typical Japanese hesitation. I also notice he has that curl in his wrist like Suttcliff had. That could be bad for the shoulder.

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