masahiro tanakaRarely do you get rock solid confirmation that a particular team will be pursuing a particular player in a given offseason. Sure, you might know on the basis of sourced reports, deduction, and oblique comments. But it’s not typical for a front office to say, “Yeah, we’re going to be going after that guy.”

I wouldn’t say that Chicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer exactly said that with respect to Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but he came as close as anyone would.

Speaking with Dave Kaplan on his eponymous show yesterday, Hoyer was asked about Tanaka, who is expected to be posted (made available for a price) by his team in Japan this offseason. Hoyer’s response was candid.

“[Tanaka] is a guy that we’ve scouted heavily, [and] we’ve done our due diligence,” Hoyer said. “He’s been outstanding not only this year but for a really long time. He’ll help someone’s rotation if he comes over here, and obviously we’re going to be involved in the process.”

Well, how about that. Given Tanaka’s age (he’s about to turn 25), apparent ability, and the Cubs’ pitching needs, it was never a secret that a player like Tanaka would interest them greatly. But it’s refreshing to hear it so plainly confirmed.

That said, the language used was sufficiently flexible to fall short of a guarantee that the Cubs will be aggressive bidders for Tanaka. “Involved” is not quite as strong.

Involved, you’d expect, would at least include a bid – depending on how the posting system shakes out (we still don’t know what it will look like, or when it will open up; in theory, it could come any day) – but it’s hard to know at this point what kind of bid it’s going to take to actually land the rights to negotiate with Tanaka. As I’ve said before, given the rising free agent market prices, the posting price on Tanaka is likely to exceed that of Yu Darvish two years ago ($51.7 million), even if Darvish was probably the superior pitcher at the time of the post.

Even if the Cubs were set on aggressively pursuing Tanaka, they would find a significant rival in the Yankees. Given the Yankees’ surplus cash, pitching needs, and desire to get under the luxury tax cap (posting price does not count against the cap), an enormous bid on Tanaka makes sense. Indeed, sources tell Jeff Passan that the Yankees plan to be “bold” in their bid for Tanaka. Whether a ploy to scare other teams into a lower blind bid or into a ridiculous, crippling, over-the-top bid, we can’t be sure. But a huge bid exceeding the $75 million range (execs tell Passan they expect the winning bid to top that figure) is to be expected. And that’s to say nothing of some other surprising team stepping up with a huge bid. Oh, plus the Dodgers. Always the Dodgers.

So, if the Cubs are going to be “involved in the process” of trying to secure Tanaka’s rights, it’s clearly going to take a massive bid – and a massive commitment from ownership – to make that happen.

(A related aside: at the season ticket holder event yesterday, while explaining why the Cubs are approaching the rebuild as they are, Theo Epstein mentioned that there is no free agent market for young, impact players in their prime. Paraphrase: “If there were a market full of 25-year-old, impact talents, our job would be easy. We’d just target the ones we wanted, spend a whole lot of money, and get them all.” I immediately chuckled to myself, thinking about Tanaka.)

  • Die hard

    Olt for Span?

  • Eternal Pessimist

    I’m feeling exceedingly pessimistic about the Cubs chances of landing Tanaka. I the Yanks spend money on “regular” free agents it counts against the cap with huge penalties. They will figure those penalties into whomever they need to sign, making them willing to overpay a lot more for Tanaka than the Cubs will. Plus, regardless of how much they are paying for broken/old players now, they have way more bank than the Cubs…this prospect nursery better bear fruit!

    • Brains

      yeah, honestly i just don’t see the cubs ever signing any impact player ever under current ownership. the money isn’t there for whatever reason, he’s risk-averse, and baseball contracts are always gambles. it’s very likely that we’re seeing a cultural transition to a mid-market mentality that’s permanent, in which the team will do well financially in part because the team no longer invests revenues in long-term contracts with impact players. european austerity in chicago.

      • Greenroom

        We’re doomed. We will never make it.

        Ever? Come on man, you can be as disappointed all you want with the current situation, but that is just so far over the top.

        Lighten up. Go have a beer. peace~

        • Brains

          i’m serious. the free agent class is awful for the next 3 years after this year. if we don’t sign someone this year it’s not clear that we’ll even have players that we want in the future. in year 3 there’s a few more, but next year in particular stinks.

          we’ll learn a lot about what’s in store in the next couple months. if we don’t sign an impact player, we never will. we’ll be playing things conservative like kansas city. we all know their track record.

          • Turn Two

            A.) This sounds like a bunch of sour grapes…i want my championship and i want it now kindergarten mentality.

            B.) Who knows who will be good in 2-3 years impact free agents could emerge.

            • Kyle

              You’d be surprised how long you can lie to kindergarteners and tell them you’re going to Disneyland later. Just keep pushing it back every time it gets close. They suck at reading calendars anyway.

              • YourResidentJag


  • Eric

    Oh Kyle, that’s just your fancy way of saying you’re making shit up.

    • Kyle


  • waffle

    I’d give the cubbies about a 4% chance of landing Tanaka.

  • Deacon

    That seems about right. Like I said in my other post, how does Epstein combine “at the right price” and the need to “be aggressive” in the same sentence? I’m going to aggressively make a bid that I have no chance of accepting? Is it like being the first guy to raise his paddle at an auction and then ducking out for a restroom break when things get serious?

  • Mike F

    Well a couple of things. First, when you buy a Japanese player, there is not a question on undeveloped nations and birth records being messed with. You know exactly what your are getting. Second, if you notice he is 25. Third, remind me who it was that went to Henry and convinced him to throw money, a 142 M on a 30 year old Carl Crawford. Third, the Cubs can spend a lot of money if they want, only the weak minded continue to insist Ricketts is a member of the little sisters of the poor. Finally, Theo is a bright guy and a GM, deception, misleading and misdirection always goes hand in hand with good ones.

    Or the negative can continue to piss on everything he does and insist that the Cubs are abusing fans. Here’s a news flash find someone else to root for, spend your money on and flower your attention on, it will be like voting with your time and dollars. I think your wrong, it’s more like life where lots is always happening black and white are harder to find, but if all the haters are right, you are also just as stupid as all of the rest of us for wasting your superior understanding on the organization that is so flawed.

    • Drew7

      “only the weak minded continue to insist Ricketts is a member of the little sisters of the poor.”

      C’mon, Mike.

      I’m not sure what I believe about the Ricketts’ financial situation, but there’s plenty of evidence pointing to a very finite amount of money being available to spend on the ML-roster. To call people who believe this evidence “weak-minded” is taking the easy way out of a fair (albeit a bit played-out) debate.

    • Jim L

      “Third, remind me who it was that went to Henry and convinced him to throw money, a 142 M on a 30 year old Carl Crawford.”

      Larry Lucchino.

  • Mike F

    No, it was Theo. Henry said it was Theo and everyone in the Boston media said it was Theo. I understand the unique nature of we Cub fans to always embrace extreme pessimism, but some of this ridiculous. Theo always has had a record of spending. And indeed, he already has bellied up to the bar on Jackson and only gave up on Sanchez when i was clear no matter what they paid, Detroit would one up them.

    As to the evidence, Chicago is one of the largest markets in the country. Ricketts has repeatedly Theo will have the resources he needs and will get what he asks for. People act like something out of the exorcist. Lock stock and barrel it is accepted that Renteria was the 2nd fiddle to JG. i believe he was Tom’s second choice, but probably not Theo’s. So what isn’t questioned by anyone is Ricketts was willing to make JG the highest paid manager in baseball. And in fact it was repeatedly common knowledge believed 25-30M. Again fact gets in the way of those who wish to believe Ricketts is broke and mean and taking the poor fans money deceptively.

    I don’t get why it is crime to not be either an apologist or be talked to like a dog as if your an imbecile by flamers who want to say the Cubs are innate evil incarnate. Somewhere there is moderation and reason, but increasingly the arbiters of that seem to be a very lazy Chicago media…..

  • http://BleacherNation Dean

    The only way the Cubs get Tanaka is if Tom stops by his dad’s office and asks for a little extra cash.

    • cubes

      wouldn’t be the first time… wish my dad would buy me a baseball team.

      also the fact that the posting fee doesn’t count against salary; I consider that a Loophole… given the FO’s Love of Loopholes we should be landing Tanaka all day.

      • Brett

        Since the Cubs aren’t anywhere close to crossing the luxury tax cap – and won’t be for a long time – that loophole doesn’t matter to them. What matters is the money, and $125+ million for Tanaka is a significant investment of the kind that can crush you if you’re wrong. Gotta think carefully about it, as much as we may not like it.

        • cubes

          I don’t follow why the cubs have to act like a midmarket team.

          we are penalized through the draft already for being a big market team.

          there are lots of reasons to spend this offseason.
          winning creates a lot of money… the amount of fair weather cub fans and the amount of “100 year drought” free publicity we will get for just sniffing the playoffs is an absurd amount of $ to wait on because you want everyone to be 25 and cost controlled.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            The biggest reason to spend would be talented players who can help the team over 3-4 years. There are not several of those to be had.

            • YourResidentJag

              Well, there is one: Rick Porcello. All I can do is state fWAR value alone…3.0 in 2012, 3.2 in 2013 and bWAR 1.5 in 2012 and 2.3 in 2013. And that’s from the 5th position in Detroit’s SP rotation. Shark’s fWAR 2012: 1.8 and 2013: 1.0. His FWar: 3.0 and 2.8. And he’s being marketed as TOR entering his age 29 season.

              • DocPeterWimsey

                As Porcello is not a free agent, spending is not an issue for acquiring him. The Tigers being willing to trade him (and the Cubs or any other team being willing to meet their price in players, not dollars) is the issue.

                • YourResidentJag

                  Well you did specify that in your original statement.

                  • YourResidentJag


                  • DocPeterWimsey

                    The prior poster wanted us to spend this winter. As “spending” applies almost exclusively towards free agents, it should not have been necessary. (It also might apply towards albatross contracts: but that obviously does not apply in Porcello’s case.)

                    So, if the Cubs cannot acquire Porcello through spending, then he clearly is not relevant! Indeed, as the Tigers have been oddly reluctant to trade him, it is not clear that Porcello is available through any means.

                    • YourResidentJag

                      Not sure if I agree with that you spending with respect to FAs applies exclusively to that action alone, and with respect to this organization. Particularly, when you look at a player like Anthony Rizzo. But you have your way there, Doc.

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      I cannot make any sense of what you wrote, but I’ll take a stab. When people say “spend,” they are saying (usually) “get the good available free agents who were on other teams” or (less often) “don’t let Cano leave the Yankees.” Trading for young talent doesn’t apply here. Signing the young talent that you already have does not apply here.

                      Again, read cubes post. He wants the Cubs to spend to improve the team. That means one thing: free agents.

                    • YourResidentJag

                      Well, that’s your parameters with respect to what (under qualifier usually) you deem teams to do when they spend. What I just said is that’s not what I believe is the template (trade and sign Rizzo) for what the Cubs ultimately wish to do.

                      This implies two things
                      1. I don’t agree with OP intentions of his statement.
                      2. I also don’t agree with your interpretation of his statement, especially as it applies to the Cubs..

          • YourResidentJag

            You forgot also about how much $$$ we pass along in terms of revenue sharing, and that includes teams within our own division.

        • Kyle

          We’d rather be crushed by a dozen non-moves than a single move.

          • Kyle

            I mean, imagine what being crushed might look like. Franchise futility marks set over multiple seasons, attendance crumbling, media deals looking shaky. I would hate to have any of that happen.

            • TOOT

              Really. OMG the Cubs are filing for bankruptcy in your mind?

              • YourResidentJag

                Hyperbolic, much?

              • Kyle

                I’m assuming that response was meant for a different post, because I didn’t say anything about bankruptcy.

                • TOOT

                  “I mean, imagine what being crushed might look like. Franchise futility marks set over multiple seasons, attendance crumbling, media deals looking shaky. I would hate to have any of that happen.”

                  No you didn’y say barkuptcy, but your comment “hinted” towards it. And that’s ridiculous.

                  • Kyle

                    I’m really struggling to see how you could have gotten bankruptcy out of that. It’s some kind of hidden code, I guess.

        • Eric

          This is definitely an approach that we as Cubs fans aren’t used to. Gone are the days of schizophrenic signings in order to appease the “need a shiny toy” fans that seem to make up this generation.

          We’re witnessing a calculated, pragmatic approach and that has to be driving the less mature fans among us completely nuts.

          • Kyle

            Yeah, I’ve *never* seen the Cubs talk about how efficient they’re being by sitting out the highest-priced, best players. It’s completely foreign to me.


            It’s Andy MacPhail 101. Of course we’ve seen it before. Many, many times. It’s practically the entire history of the Cubs’ organization outside of a few small blips (which coincidentally frequently preceded our few small blips of success).

            I know, I know, something something hipster.

            • YourResidentJag

              Well, it definitely explains why the organization let go of Greg Maddux early in his career.

            • jt

              you assume that the best players are the highest priced players

              • Kyle

                Yes. And it’s a good assumption, in general.

                Now, that cost may be in something besides dollars (trade value, for example). But the best players are generally the ones that cost the most to acquire.

                • jt

                  The ban on greenies and PED’s has lowered the value of the older FA’s while the introduction of media money has elevated their cost.
                  I wouldn’t mind seeing them take on expensive contracts but I believe the trade market has more value than that of the FA market.

          • MichiganGoat

            Agreed but this voice is no longer the majority

            • Eric

              And that’s unfortunate. It does seem like some would rather us have albatross contracts for 40 year old players than a World Series.

              • DocPeterWimsey

                Those are not either/or scenarios: one way several teams have built playoff caliber teams “now” is to have albatross contracts 5 years later.

                Moreover, with so many players getting locked up early in their careers, we are seeing good free agents largely in their early 30’s. If you want them to help your team next year, then you have to pay for them to be taking up space on your roster in 7 years.

                • hansman

                  If the FA market is exploding as it seems, you’re going to see a big shift in who is hitting FA. I would anticipate this occuring in the 2017 time frame or right as the Cubs minor leagues will start producing in spades.

                  • jt

                    “I would anticipate this occuring in the 2017 time frame ”
                    Imagine what Castro, Rizzo and Castillo could return around 2018 when teen’s they signed this summer start to mature.
                    This is why I’m all for the youth thing.

              • Kyle

                False choice fallacy.

            • Eric

              See? Babies and bathwater.

              • Jimbotron

                Take some time off, dude, you’re embarrassing yourself.

              • Brains

                babies and bathwater as in throwing the entire potential team out for 5 years because you can’t win the world series all at once?

              • Eric

                Like petulant children not getting their Albert Pujols, they will stomp and throw fits until the Cubs make a big free agent signing and do enough to get by for 3 or more seasons. Rinse and repeat.

                The hipster squad: “But daddy, I want a Robinson Cano!”

                Father Theo: “Patience child, we’re trying to build a relationship with winning. Not a one-night-stand.”

                The hipster squad: “But you hafta get me a shiny thing to make me happy!”

                Father Theo: “I’d rather that shiny thing be a World Series ring and not another Alfonso Soriano.”

                • Brains

                  the whole problem is that you think theo is your dad. well he’s not, he’s a dork who has an owner curtailing his plan to rebuild the organization, so he’s cutting corners and focusing almost all of his energy on one part of the economy of scale of the organization. the result is the team is way worse than promised on the mlb level.

                  theo is not your dad, so stop praising everything he did as though he’s a role model. he’s just a businessman with a bad business situation doing an average job.

                  • YourResidentJag

                    No, the problem is that he started by using the name; Albert Pujols. :)

                    • Brains

                      when i was growing up every kid wanted to be mark grace or andre dawson. now they all want to be theo epstein’s butler. everyone has bad baseball values because of it. instead of routing for inspiration, clutch, and teamwork, everyone thinks about administrative processes and saving money for hte organization.

                      if andre dawson was a free agent this year everyone would insult him as overrated because his war wasn’t high enough in comparison with a guy who hit .272 but had a high dwar.

                    • Brett

                      This may be your most perfectly “you” comment ever. You make cramming false, insulting, irrational, and misleading bits into a four-sentence comment an art. Kudos.

                    • Brains

                      thank you, thank you. i’ve been honing the craft for a couple months. but let’s not mistake “brains” for something original. it’s just a pithy reproduction of the style and logic of the other posts, in reverse.

                  • Eric

                    With a self-chosen moniker such as yours, I would hope a simple metaphor would have been better understood.

                • caryatid62

                  No matter how many ad hominem attacks you make (given that you seem to think “hipster” is some sort of attack), it doesn’t change the reality of the situation.

                  If opinions that don’t celebrate the Cubs’ situation right now offend you, you can always ignore them. There’s really no reason to get so butthurt about it.

                  • Eric

                    Or I could simply hold the offending feet to the proverbial fire and then listen for the cries and squeaky sounds of self-justifications and excuses. Like I’m doing right now in fact.

                    • Brains

                      justifications and excuses, you’re talking about the FO now right?

                • Kyle

                  If we’re doing terrible analogies, we’re like the lame kid who dreams of dating the cheerleader with some kind of absurdly long, slow plan that involves starting off as her lab partner in biology. Meanwhile, he doesn’t understand why the big jock football player is banging her under the bleachers when his plan is so fool-proof.

                  • Brains

                    my metaphor would be the guy who buys a hot dog business, and instead of handing out coupons to gain interest, he immediately starts charging $20 for a substandard product.

                    oh wait, that’s EXACTLY what the ricketts have been doing…in multiple business ventures at the same time. interesting parallels between these two investments.


                  • Eric

                    I think while you were hammering away at your Macbook at the coffee shop, your over-sized glasses must have blocked your view and confused you. You meant metaphor, not analogy. You’re welcome.

                    • Kyle

                      Well, you are right that I did misuse it and analogy would have been correct. That’s the only thing you got right in that post, but that’s an improvement over your usual average.

                    • Kyle

                      No wait, no I didn’t, I was right the first time. It was an analogy and not a metaphor.

                      That’s what I get for doubting myself.

                    • Eric

                      Sigh. Take your time Kyle. Look for your keywords. Use Google if you have to.

  • Wi Jeff

    75 million toward tanaka or 75 million toward purchasing rooftop buildings and ending the snarky litigation?

  • Bill

    If the cubs are serious about pursuing Tanaka they are going to need to bid 100 million to have a chance to outbid the Yankees and dodgers.

  • Joycedaddy

    Sounds like Hoyer’s polite way of saying “Tanaka will not be a Cub.”

    • DocPeterWimsey

      It reads like the Yankees are impolitely saying “Tanaka will not be a [not-Yankee].” I suspect that austerity is over for the Yanks.

      • Luke

        That doesn’t mean the Yankees will have the highest bid (assuming the blind posting process doesn’t change). The Yankees won’t drop more than they think they have to. If the Yankees guess wrong and someone bids more, all the extra dollars the Yankees can come up with won’t help them one bit.

        There seems to be this thinking that the Yankees will automatically outbid anyone, and I’m sure they would if they had the chance. But they may not get that chance. If they guess that $95 million will land Tanaka’s rights and Anaheim swoops in with $100 million, then it flatly doesn’t matter that the Yankees might have an extra $150 million laying around that they wish they could have spent.

        Having the money to spend helps any team going after Tanaka, but it doesn’t guarantee them anything.

        Unless the posting process changes, that is.

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  • cubes

    “The prior poster wanted us to spend this winter. As “spending” applies almost exclusively towards free agents,”

    spending does not relegate to only FA… players are currency. also you can add payroll though trades… often times it is the driving force.

    one point that was missed is that we are A BIG MARKET team we get penalized like one. we are top 5 in NET WORTH… yet we are acting like a lower mid market team…
    anyone who thinks we can either invest in the future OR invest in the present is wrong. you can invest in the present and the future at the same time.

    • Brains

      i tried saying this for a while but they only listen if you talk about their dad

  • waffle

    it would be great to get Tanaka, but realistically? For this team now? I’d be shocked. And I don’t think that means our FO are a bunch of 1) idiots 2) cheapskates 3) masochists.

    And no, I don’t think that just confirms that I am drinking the Theo cool aid. But that probably won’t prevent a choice few of you from going there anyway.

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