masahiro tanakaYou probably didn’t need a sourced report to know that the Chicago Cubs would be seriously investigating the possibility of bidding on Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka if he’s posted by his team this offseason. Tanaka is expected to be posted, and is expected to command a post and a contract in the range of what Yu Darvish received two years ago ($51.7 million post, six-year, $56 million contract).

If you did need a sourced report to know the Chicago Cubs would be seriously investigating the possibility of bidding on Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka if he’s posted by his team this offseason, Phil Rogers has it for you. Rogers says Major League sources indicate Tanaka is the “top priority” for the Cubs this offseason. Bruce Levine has also said in the past that he’s heard Tanaka is the Cubs’ top target, for what it’s worth.

Tanaka, who turns 25 later this week (we share a birthday! … and he’s seven years my junior … le sigh), has dominated the NPB for the past few years, recording a sub-2.00 ERA each of the past three season. This year, including the playoffs, he’s 25-0, which is going to get much more play than it merits (because, you know, W/L record sucks). In 212 regular season innings, he struck out 183 (which is actually a healthy drop in strikeout rate from recent years), and walked 32. His ERA was 1.27. He will be the “top priority” for a great many teams, I’d expect.

As for the actual process of landing Tanaka, it could be substantially different this time around than posts in the past. You’ll recall that, previously, when a Japanese team wanted to “sell” a player to a team in MLB, they would go through the posting system. In that system, interested MLB teams would submit a blind bid for the right to negotiate with that player. The winning team would have a certain period of time to negotiate a contract, and, if completed, the Japanese team would then receive the posting bid. If no deal is worked out, the money is returned to the MLB team.

As constructed, the system was designed to get MLB teams to bid against themselves (look no further than the Yu Darvish post, which exceeded $50 million by the Rangers, but for which the teams in second and third were believed to have bid somewhere in the $20 million range), thus transferring more money to the Japanese team. I get it. If I were that Japanese team, I’d love this system.

The players, however, as you might expect, hate the system. It reduces their negotiating ability, and shifts money that would otherwise go to them instead to their home team. MLB teams also don’t much care for the rule, for obvious reasons.

We’ve heard for months now that the system might be revisited this offseason, and Joel Sherman reports that one possibility – just a possibility – would have as many as three teams “winning” the post, and the player would then be able to choose one of those teams with which to negotiate. A system like this would not only give more teams an opportunity to land the player, but would also artificially drive down posting bids (if you knew you had to fall only in the top three, you’re not going to bid quite as outrageously as you would if you knew you had to have the top bid).

(It seems to me that the best system could involve the Japanese team setting a posting price, and any team that is willing to meet it can have the right to negotiate with the player. Then, whichever team – of the teams that met the posting price – actually signs the player will pay the posting price to the Japanese team. The losing teams do not lose their money. Alternatively, you could have a posting system where the posting bids go to the Japanese team regardless of who wins the post. The winning team is the only one that can negotiate with the player, though. In this system, posting bids would go way down, but the total yield to the Japanese team could be comparable to what it is in the past. The winning team could get a bargain (but the second place team could lose a whole lot of cash for nothing). I like it.)

Pending those changes – which could dramatically alter the bidding approach – I don’t see a scenario where Tanaka does not command a total commitment nearing or exceeding what Darvish did. No, Tanaka is not believed to be the ace-level pitcher that Darvish has proved to be, but the market has changed dramatically in the last two years. To deny that fact and cling to your old assumptions of what kinds of contracts are reasonable is to bury your head in the sand and be passed up. As we’ve watched what has happened to contracts over the last two offseasons – in tandem with the new CBA’s changes to free agency, and exploding television revenues – there is a clear, upward trend. It was striking after 2011. It was shocking after 2012. And after this season? How would you describe the Tim Lincecum contract? I would call it paradigm-shifting. There is a new normal now, and elite, prime age talent like Tanaka is going to command huge dollars, even if he doesn’t compare to Darvish.

The Cubs should come ready to pay the price of poker, or bow out early. I’m not particularly interested in hearing that they lodged a bid that no one expected would be competitive.

  • YourResidentJag
    • hansman

      The thing to remember, when folks lament about baseball’s lack of popularity, is that baseball isn’t an “event” sport. With football you have 1 chance to watch the championship game and so people make a big deal out of that 1 chance and plan parties.

      Hard to plan a party for a game 7 when you have (at most) 48 hours notice and it doesn’t fall on a weekend.

      • YourResidentJag

        True. This baseball is dead stuff really bothers me, though. And as it is an event sport, the ratings between the two really aren’t comparable.

        • On The Farm

          The MLB lacks a face. It is difficult because if you have a good team its hard to say it is all because of one person. The NFL is a QB league. If you have a top 5 QB, you are probably a Super Bowl contender year in and year out. Same with the NBA, its a MVP league. If you have a top 10 player, your team has a good shot at making the playoffs. If you have a top 5 player in baseball? Well Mike Trout wasn’t playing playoff baseball, Miguel Cabrera and Clayton Kerhaw failed to reach the finals and they are considered the best at what they do. Baseball will have a hard time competing with sports where people want to be drawn to stars.

          • YourResidentJag

            Yeah, I suppose. I’m more of the conclusion that baseball will remain a very popular niche sport as demonstrated by the exorbinant prices regional sports networks shell out to still televise games.

            • Pat

              I think a big part of those contracts is advertisers currently stressing sports as the best chance for live commercial views (as well as the ability to force subscription dollars through channel packaging). That may or may not hold up into the future.

              Remember that even five or ten years ago newspapers were selling for astronomical amounts. It didn’t make it a sound industry.

  • Jon

    Ausmus would be a solid freakin hire. I hope he is still in the running.

  • ssckelley

    Bryant hit an opposite field 2 run homer today in the AFL. Soler went 1-3 with a walk and raising his average up to .300, he has himself a nice little hitting streak going.

    • mjhurdle

      not buying. we need to release Soler now, he is obviously washed up and is never going to amount to anything :)

      • ssckelley

        but but but he was named to the AFL All Star team (along with Bryant and Almora).

  • 1ski


  • Reality Check

    attached is an article from the Sun-Times today stating Cubs & Samardizja are not close on an extension; meaning nothing has changed since spring training. no numbers mentioned so hard to know what either wants.

    safe to say would be nice if 52 million had not been wasted on Edwin Jackson; lot easier to stomach 65 or 70M on Smardz; for a still non-contending team; than have 120M on both.
    the whole ejax signing is still a mystery and not a good one.

    • http://bleachernation ferris

      Ejax eats innings and is usually better than 2013..looking at what pitchers get it was a solid deal not a great one which we cubs fans desperately need… hes a back end rotation guy,hes paid an he is always out there,he and wood are the only two for sures we have. Shark wants over fed…..and i can see us trading him if his demands dnt come down

  • Jono

    I hope someone makes a “best fans in baseball” meme with a picture of that paper airplane on the field

  • Aaron

    Samardizja wants to be part of a winning team AND get paid handsomely.

    I don’t blame him for wanting both. He is putting pressure on the Cubs to start getting a more competitive team OR trade him to one. But here’s the catch…

    Samardzija signed a five-year deal, which included a no-trade clause. This means that Shark and his agent can dictate to the Cubs where he would be would be willing to go, since they would need him to waive his no trade clause. The Cubs would prefer to trade him to a contending team in the American League, rather than in the National League. Those clubs would include the Boston Red Sox, Yankees, Detroit Tigers, A’s, Rays and Rangers.

    Samardzija is in the driver’s seat on this one, and you know what, he’s earned it.

    • Eternal pessemist

      Way to make up a fun story.

      • DarthHater

        Except for the fun part.

    • DarthHater

      Samardzija doesn’t have a no-trade clause. What orifice do you pull this crap out of?

      • Kyle

        The original five-year deal he signed when he was drafted had a no-trade clause. That ran out when the Cubs declined the options at the end of the deal after 2011.

      • Scotti

        I’d guess the OP got confused with Samardzija’s 5-year, $10 million deal which was no-trade for all five years. Not really all that difficult to get confused on an issue like that. Not at all worth jumping down someone’s throat for, either.

  • mjhurdle

    Im addicted to @Baseball’s Best Fans. Can’t wait to see some of the Tweets after Matt Adams 3 pitch strike out with a runner on second. :)

    • Jono

      Me, too

      • DarthHater

        I just cannot bring myself to click the Follow button for that. I dunno…

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Does anybody else feel that the Sox should be up 5 games to none right now?

  • Jeff

    Nothing makes me feel better than seeing the Cardinals lose!

    • WhatAnIdiot

      I wonder what a Cubs win makes you feel?

    • CubsFaninMS

      Unfortunately, as a Cubs fan, you have to take what you can get for now.

  • N.J. Riv

    Theo’s men in Boston are one more win away from taking it all.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      heh, to read some posts here, there is nothing left of the team that Theo put together! And, seriously, aside from three starting pitchers, DH, 2B, 3B, C and CF, it’s a completely different team.

      • Kyle

        We should all just agree right now that Epstein gets half credit for both 2004 and 2013. It seems the fairest way to head off these arguments.

        • WhatAnIdiot

          Which would give him credit for two WS championships. That would mean clowns like Kyle should repent, I daresay?

          • Kyle

            Two gives him the same number as Andy MacPhail.

            • WhatAnIdiot

              To steal a line from you, “none since 1991.”

              • Kyle

                I prefer to think of it as “none since becoming a Cub.” Much like Epstein himself.

      • N.J. Riv

        Don’t forget Lester, Xander, Lackey and Clay.

        • N.J. Riv

          My bad Doc, I skipped over when you mentioned the starting pitchers. But yeah, other than those guys, he hasn’t really done much haha.

  • Die hard

    No way will Cubs gamble on this pitcher especially with the risk of him being in need of 1-2 years in the minors making him 28 when called up given the Shark needs to be fed first

    • ssckelley

      I doubt they would send Tanaka to the minors if they signed him.

  • CubsFaninMS

    I believe if a somewhat team-friendly contractual agreement cannot be worked out with Samardzija, the optimal time to sell him is the trade deadline in 2014. Samardzija, thus far, has been a very low injury risk. Is his ERA likely to be worse the first couple of months in 2014 as compared to his 4.31 ERA of this year? Possible but not likely. First, we are selling SOMEWHAT low on Samardzija if we trade him this offseason. Second, what will be the different between how much talent we acquire from a Samardzija trade this off season as compared to the trade deadline? The Garza trade indicates.. probably not much. In addition to that, if the front office is serious about at least ATTEMPTING to make a run for the playoffs next season (yes, you never know), they have to at least keep Samardzija around in case that happens. If we flop like we did in 2013, then trade him. Little is lost. For the Garza sweepstakes, you had many smart GM’s not biting on the rent-a-player. For Samardzija, the team acquiring him would have him for an additional season. IMO, this would most likely bring more trading partners to the surface and inflate the value some. Say all of this, my thoughts are that.. unless they get a major haul of prospects this off season, there’s no reason not to keep him around for 2014.

  • Die hard

    Friend saw Ozzie at Northbrook Mall yesterday and hour later saw Theo too ….hmmm

    • danimal8

      Did they meet at Forever 21?

  • papabear

    If you read how the Garza trade went down – the Gm wanted nothing to do with it – the owner pushed him to make that trade. Texas way over paid for Garza – most one sided trade in baseball last year.

    Samardzija is a good pitcher not a great pitcher ( 2 or 3) – I think he will have 3 or 4 good years in baseball. Not sure about 5 or 6 years. Best thing to happen to the cubs is if he doesn’t sign an extension and plays out his 3 years he has left.

    This team is ready to be put together -not ready to win for 2 or 3 years. Need to start trading prospects for other prospects that fit into the cubs future. TV revenue needs to be increased. Building needs to happen to increase revenue and improve facility for players.

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  • http://bleachernation ferris

    Id still like to see us add tanaka,arroyo,and choo….samardzja is pricing himself out but until hes traded a rotation tanaka,samardzja,wood,arroyo,jackson..seems pretty solid…..choo would be perfect in left an leadoff…..and add salty behind the plate,i think wed be very competetive.fft