Rarely 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.)