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masahiro tanakaWhen Chicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer last week told Dave Kaplan that the Cubs would be “involved in the process” of Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka, should he be posted by his team in Japan, there was necessarily a certain level of circumspection. Although Tanaka, what with his free availability, his age (25), and his ability, is certainly a fit for the Cubs, he is a fit for many teams for the same reasons. Teams with deeper pockets. Teams that don’t lose out on bidding wars.

But Hoyer didn’t back down when he arrived at the GM Meetings last night, telling ESPN and CSN that the Cubs “wouldn’t [scout Tanaka] for nothing,” and they plan to be a part of the process. And, to put it in Hoyer’s parlance, I don’t think Hoyer would be saying this publicly for nothing. The Cubs are legitimately interested in making a real attempt to get Tanaka. We can all accept that now. Groovy.

That said, we don’t yet know what the posting process is going to look like (or when it will be resolved). A source tells MLB.com that MLB has submitted a proposal for a revamped posting system to the NPB (the pro league in Japan), and they are simply awaiting a response. (Ken Davidoff reported overnight that the possible resolution will still have the top bidder winning the post (and only the top bidder), but the price will be the average of the top two bids). Until the system is settled, there will be no movement on Tanaka. And, until there’s movement on Tanaka, a number of other offseason moves could be held up.

I can’t help but wonder if the Cubs are hoping the posting process changes sufficiently that there isn’t just one winner of the post. Perhaps, as some have speculated, three teams can “win” if their bid is among the top three, and then each will have the opportunity to negotiate with the player. If that’s the setup, I could see the Cubs being in the top three bids.

But, man, it’s not a lock.

First of all, you’ve got the Yankees, who are – in my mind – the prohibitive favorite for Tanaka. With a posting fee that doesn’t count against the luxury tax cap, the Yankees have infinite money with which to make the posting bid. I see no reason that they will not bid sky-high. The Yankees need pitching as much as the Cubs.

Then you’ve got the Dodgers, who have shown since new ownership took over that they’ll pay any amount for any player. They also want another starting pitcher (because their rotation is so crappy … ), so you can expect a second sky-high bid.

Even if you forgot about the Dodgers and Yankees, there are also the Rangers and Red Sox, who are deep-pocketed and willing to go big on guys like Tanaka. And there’s always another team or two lurking. All of these teams will want Tanaka just as badly as the Cubs. So, if it’s a three-team process, the Cubs might have a chance. But they might not.

That is all to say, I totally buy the Cubs’ involvement in the Tanaka process. And if the posting system changes dramatically, I could even buy the Cubs having a chance to sign him. But, absent an extreme, out-of-pocket commitment by ownership to spend big on the posting fee, I don’t see the Cubs being the top bidder. Imagine that the posting fee is $100 million (not out of the question) – that’s 1/3 the price of the Wrigley Field portion of the renovation plans. Think about that. It’s hard to see ownership making that kind of up-front commitment, given where the revenue streams are right now.

  • InRizzoWeTrust

    Is he worth it to waste a few years while we wait for the youth movement? He’ll be 27 by the time this team “should” compete. Not worth it to me, but then again I don’t run the Cubs.

    • ETS

      27 is probably ideal. I say probably because each individual’s age curve is slightly different than the average, but yeah, the time of Tanaka makes alot of sense for the cubs.

    • caryatid62

      27 will be “too old?”

      Seriously?

      27?

      27?

      Man, the Cubs have done such an excellent job convincing some parts of their fan base that any free agent signing would compromise the plan. This is just getting ridiculous.

      • CubFan Paul

        This. All of this.

      • SH

        I’m told that draft picks are also too risky. A top-10 choice can run you in the millions and many don’t even make the pros! Plus, by the time they do they’re too old for our timeline of being competitive in 2030.

        My buddy in the org says the FO is sending a huge contingent to Williamsport next August; Little Leaguers are the new market inefficiency given their low salaries (they actually *pay* to play!) and they fit our timeline perfectly.

        • YourResidentJag

          HA! Great…I’ll make sure MacLeod is there to scout. :)

      • Funn Dave

        Hahaha.

      • InRizzoWeTrust

        So remind me where I said he was too old? Thanks. My point (which you clearly missed) is that we don’t need to spend $100 million on a pitcher and waste 2 years of his prime. I also look at his pitch counts (175 in 2 days?!) recently and don’t envy that.

    • Kyle

      Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    • Larry S.

      Yes, it is. The average age of peak performance in MLB is 27.

  • Bwa

    I think it should be that the top three bids get to negotiate , but whoever signs him has to pay the top bid regardless of whether or not it was there’s.

    • ETS

      I think it should be top 3 bids and they have to pay either the 2nd or 3rd highest posted bid. You typically see higher bidding in a Vickrey Auction http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vickrey_auction

    • Ken

      That doesn’t sound like a solution to me. Then the Royals, for example, could post $250M with no intention to sign him and force the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox etc to pay that, which they probably wouldn’t. It would hurt the player.

      • Bwa

        Didn’t consider that. Good point

  • ETS

    I think hoyer is just making noise so the teams that are bidding bid even higher. This posting will be insane $80m+.

    • CubFan Paul

      “hoyer is just making noise”

      Yep. Hopefully everyone reads & understands Brett’s last paragraph.

  • hansman

    Man, this really makes the Rangers insane bid for Darvish seem smart.

    • Hee Seop Chode

      Or maybe it was very sane.

      • SH

        But, but, but…it cost money! It didn’t involve tanking!

    • YourResidentJag

      Except that you’ve said throughout and especially at the time of the bidding that the Rangers paid through the nose to get him. They had to because once again they were WS bound.

  • Hee Seop Chode

    As Mightybear said yesterday, sell some Ameritrade stock. No one said winning was cheap.

    • hansman

      That would actually depress the value of TD Ameritrade. You need to buy their stock to help (and it would be preferred if you bought it only when they issue new stock).

    • CubFan Paul

      They already cashed in $400M worth of Ameritrade to purchase the team.

  • jt

    So much for those who say they wont spend for value

  • Kyle

    I absolutely think that Hoyer would say it for nothing. They are going to do their due diligence because that’s what professional teams do, but they know and we know that there’s essentially no chance of him ending up on the Cubs.

    And there was the unnamed team official (mysteriously quoted in an article made entirely off of a Theo Epstein interview, hmm, I wonder who that official is giving the information on background) that said the Cubs don’t really expect to win the bidding.

    • caryatid62

      At the moment, there’s literally no down side to saying “we’ll be in it,” even if you don’t plan to actually place a competitive bid.

      You get out ahead of the story and shape the narrative. The blind bidding process protects your reputation, and you can claim pretty much anything you want afterwards. Your fans believe you’re willing to spend, regardless of whether you are or you’re not.

      Thinking more about it–the blind bid system is pretty great for team PR.

      • Kyle

        If you don’t lay the groundwork by talking about how interested you are in “being in the process,” it’s harder to take credit for being the highest losing bid in vague, unsourced reports later on.

      • hansman

        Just think, when the Cubs don’t win they can leak a story about how they were 2nd and noone will bother to repudiate it.

  • Jono

    I can’t see the salary being an issue. Given their drop in committed money over the next couple years and the specific situation of a 25 year old productive starting pitcher, the salary risk seems worth it.

    It’s that posting fee. Boy oh boy. That posting fee.

  • JoeyCollins

    If the changes come down as reported, and only one team gets to negotiate while paying an average of the top two bids, I can’t imagine this helping the Cubs or lowering bids at all. If anything a team is rewarded for throwing out a huge number. Any process that only allows one team to win the bid and negotiate will continue to see raising bids and not change anything.

  • DarthHater

    Amended marketing slogan for 2014: “Cubs: We’re Involved in the Process. No, Seriously.”

    • CubFan Paul

      “We’re Involved in the Process”

      reminds me of “We need more Matt Garzas”

      soon to be “We need more Jeff Samardzijas”

  • Blublud

    I wish people would stop talking about “revenue streams” not being there. The cubs are one of the highest grossing teams in baseball, even with their inferior TV deal, their renovation(which hasn’t cost a dime yet) and their trashy stadium. They are not a mid market team. They are a major market. I would be suprised if the Cubs don’t sign Tanaka. I know I talk in exacts, but there is a 0% chance that the Cubs don’t have the money to sign who ever they want (that includes Cano is they were inclined to). They may feel like a Cano is not worth a contract of that caliber, something I may not disagree with, but if they chose to sign him, then the money will be there. Same with Tanaka.

    • CubFan Paul

      Looks like you missed the last paragraph.

      • Blublud

        What part of the last paragraph did miss?

        • CubFan Paul

          I meant to say “Looks like you missed Brett’s last paragraph”

  • Ed

    I really wish MLB let mark Cuban buy the team. I’m tired of the broke ass ricketts!

    • Jono

      Yes, just imagen Cuban arguing with umpires after bad calls! Then Ozzie running out to keep the piece!

    • Norm

      Jesus…back to Mark Cuban again.
      Do you know that Cuban said this with regards to spending on the Cubs?

      “IMHO, the money I could save being in the 2nd tier of payroll could be invested in scouting and development.”

  • Cubbie in NC

    I understand that Theo and Jed are going to hold onto prospects and draft picks like grim death… But here is a chance to get something the Cubs need without losing either of those things.

    Maybe in 3 years this will look like a bargain, because bargains and building the farm system are what this is all about….

    • Jono

      $100 million post a bargain? Does that mean teams in the future will be taking out mortgages on their stadiums just to get the rights to negotiate with one player?

      • caryatid62

        If the teams couldn’t really afford it, they wouldn’t be bidding that much. None of the teams that are bidding and, for that matter, most of the teams in baseball, could likely afford 100 million in posting without doing much damage to their bottom line.

        • Jono

          I’m not sure what that has to do with what I just wrote

          • Jono

            wait, never mind. I got it. Ignore my comment.

  • Cheryl

    I think there may be a good chance the cubs go all out and win the bidding despite the stiff competition they’ll face. One reason is they’ve got to be better than an also-ran since attendance is down and they need to prove something to the fans. A second reason is they badly need a pitcher of Tanaka’s skill level. A third reason may be tat they figure bidding and signing him may be more economical in the long run than going after Price. Yes, what he’ll cost is astronomical but the cost of other free agents on a par with him are high too. Also, instead of being the tea with a below average rating in the majors his signing may move them up several steps competition wise and help to speed up the turn around of the cubs.

  • Jon

    WOOOHOOO We are going to be part of the process, just like we were part of the Darvish processs!!!!

  • mjhurdle

    Lots of talk about the Cardinals inquiring about Castro here in STL.
    No way to tell how much truth is behind it, but as far as local talk goes, he would be the preferred candidate if it was possible, because they feel they would have to give up too much to get Tulo or Andrus, and Drew’s price is speculated to be pretty high.

    • Jono

      I think / hope the Cubs watch Castro rebound in 2014 and shop him next off-season IF two things: Baez rips up AAA and the FO decides to keep him at SS.

      If Castro rebounds this year, like I expect him to do, his return would probably be significantly more than if they trade him now

      • terencemann

        I’ve said this before but I just hope the Cubs can give Baez some time at other infield positions in AAA. It would be nice to have some versatility in the younger players so they can fill different roles depending on what the lineup needs for the day.

        • Jono

          Like a Zobrist? Versatility is nice.

      • mjhurdle

        I see what you are saying, but I think that, if Castro rebounds and has a good year, then you dont trade the young, cost-controlled SS that has had good year 4 out of 5 years in the bigs while hoping that an unproven prospect steps up.
        At that point, i think Baez becomes trade bait, or someone moves positions. Either way a great problem to have.

        • Jono

          You’re right, that’s why I use “if”

          If Baez rips up Iowa, he’s not as unproven. Sure, there are AAAA guys, but I’d feel pretty confident in Baez if he plays in AAA like he has everywhere else.

          And whether they trade Baez or Castro, I’d probably prefer Castro, but the same thought process can be applied for both. Baez would be even more cost controlled. Again, it really depends on how Castro rebounds and how Baez does at AAA

        • The Dude

          I strenuously object to the idea that, if, Castro rebounds and Baez tears up AAA, you would trade Baez and not Castro. If that was my only two options, I would absolutely trade Castro. To me, the optimal strategy would be to continuously trade players after they’ve become proven players at the MLB level.

          Let’s just use the example of Baez, Bryant, Almora, and Soler. If they all realize their full potential and become ML players, I wouldn’t expect them all to be lifelong Cubs. I would have to choose two, maybe three to keep and trade the other(s) at the end of their cost-controlled years. That’s how I would keep replenishing the farm system and avoid the window of opportunity syndrome.

          • Jono

            exactly

          • mjhurdle

            The issue at hand is that you would be trading away proven MLB talent in order to make room for *hopefully* good MLB talent.
            Until Baez comes up and hits MLB pitching for a decent amount of time (like not just 50 ABs), then he is still unproven, minor league numbers or not.
            I understand the Baez love, and agree with it. But IF Castro rebounds, then that means he will have 4 out of 5 years of above average production for a MLB SS.
            Baez will have 0 years.
            To trade away the known for the unknown is what I disagree with, but that is just my personal preference.

      • Dave

        Or better yet Castro rebounds and the Cubs keep him to avoid this being a never ending rebuild.

  • Eric

    I’d love to see the Cubs score this coup. We’re entirely capable of winning this.

  • itzscott

    Looks to me like the ideal strategy is to sign Tanaka and then trade Shark for a TOR pitching prospect or two.

    With Wood and CJ Edwards later on, that would give the Cubs a helluva rotation to go along with the Big 4 prospects + Castro, Rizzo and maybe Castillo.

    • baseballet

      Agreed!

  • cubfanincardinalland

    I have to imagine the Cubs owners and the brass have to be hearing about this deal for the Braves to receive a new stadium, and saying you have to be shitting me.
    Cobb County will be paying 450 million dollars of the expected 670 million cost. The Braves portion is expected to be covered by selling the naming rights, and the rights to develop the mixed use areas around the ball park. So they will be getting a brand new, revenue enhancing stadium, for basically zero dollars outlay.
    Meanwhile in bizzaro world, the Cubs want to pump half a billion dollars into the Chicago economy,but can’t get permission to spend their own money, are stuck in gridlock. Currently stuck in a 12 month process legal and legislative process, just to put up a see through advertising sign. It would be humorous if it wasn’t so absurd. And make no mistake, it has and will continue to hurt this franchise.

    • terencemann

      It’s not the Cubs fault Cobb County is full of idiots.

      Just a reminder: the new Braves stadium will be 5-10 minutes from the bar that sold the “Obama ’08” t-shirts that featured the monkey that looked like Curious George on them. Quality people out there.

    • Jono

      +1

  • BlameHendry

    Don’t forget the Angels, they’re just as rich and spend-heavy as the Dodgers, and they’re in too. The posting fee will be crazy, but think about all the money the Cubs have saved up over the past few years? Each year there has been a huge amount of space between the Cubs payroll ceiling and their actual payroll, and there’s no doubt in my mind that amount totals to something more than whatever the posting fee will be.

    • CubFan Paul

      “but think about all the money the Cubs have saved up over the past few years”

      There’s no “savings”. It went back into the organization (..debt service payments).

  • Joycedaddy

    Theo and Jed used to be “coy” on things like this, so hearing them talk so openly about Tanaka makes me feel like they want him but know that they won’t be able to acquire him. Maybe Hoyer’s comments are more directed at Ricketts? I don’t know.

  • Spoda17

    I just think there is no chance we get him, and I am not sure I would pay upwards of $75 mil… heck I think $50 is too damn high. Tough to cry poverty and still spend $75 mil on a gamble.

  • Andy

    What do you guys think about trading Starlin for Shelby Miller? Put Donnie Murphy or whoever at SS as a placeholder until Baez is ready? We clear out the infield logjam a little and get a young stud SP. Cards can afford to deal Miller and need a SS.

    • CubFan Paul

      “We clear out the infield logjam a little..”

      By trading our All-Star shortstop?

      • Edwin

        All-Star doesn’t mean anything. Cezar Izturis was an All-Star. Brian LaHair was an All-Star.

        • CubFan Paul

          I don’t remember Cezar Izturis or Brian LaHair having a 200 hit season.

          Try again.

          • Edwin

            You didn’t say “By trading our 200 hit shortstop?”. You said All-Star. 200 hits almost means something. All-Star does not.

            Try again.

            • CubFan Paul

              Okay.

              By trading our perennial All-Star shortstop?

              • Pat

                So 2 out of 4 years is now perennial? And in those years he was 5th in voting and not even in the top 8 in the NL. The team was terrible and they had to select someone.

                200 hits is impressive, but keep in mind that was with 674 at bats.

                • CubFan Paul

                  “So 2 out of 4 years is now perennial?”

                  Yes, when he’s young and has projection.

                  • Pat

                    So when a hitter is young, words lose their defined meanings. got it.

                    Now if you had said the perennial league leader in outs made, that would have been correct.

                    • SH

                      Let trolls be trolls, Pat. CubFan Raul is giving MichiganGoat a run for his money today.

          • Ken

            Castro career OBP .322

            LaHair career OBP .334

            It’s not about “hits” it’s about making fewer outs.

            Try again.

            • Kyle

              if Bryan LaHair could be SS, he’d have a nine-figure deal by now.

            • J.L.

              Seriously, guys, this “try again” thing is real lame.

              • CubFan Paul

                I started it. You’re lame.

                • hansman

                  Try again.

                  You’re both lame.

                  • DarthHater

                    But not as lame as CubFan Raul. :-D

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “Raul”

                      If I could speak Spanish, I’d so roll with that.

                    • DarthHater

                      heh

    • Kyle

      They might, but I don’t think the Cardinals give you Miller for Castro.

      • jh03

        Personally, I wouldn’t like that trade.

    • Edwin

      Nice approach, although after Castro’s season last year, and with his long-term contract, I’m not sure the Cardinals would be wililng to part with Shelby Miller for that. Plus, that’s putting a lot of confidence in Baez.

      I don’t think the Cubs will trade Castro this offseason unless they’re clearly blown away by an offer. If they wait, Castro might be able to up his value with better play, and the Cubs will have a better idea of possible replacements for Castro.

  • YourResidentJag

    First the Yankees, then the Dodgers and then we forget about Rogers Communications who owns the Jays, the stadium, and I believe sold the rights to network that they used to own which broadcast the Jays to ESPN for a pretty penny. They’re not exactly in the poor house and the team definitely needs more pitching.

  • DarthHater

    “Marlon Byrd has reached a two-year, $16 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, a source confirmed Tuesday.” http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/9965361/marlon-byrd-agrees-two-year-deal-philadelphia-phillies

    • cubfanincardinalland

      You give Ruben Amaro some extra spending money, he will go out and get you a 35 year old plus ball player. Byrd, coming off a suspension for steroid use, with a career season at 35 years old. No risk there. What was Victor Conte’s cut on that contract?

      • Voice of Reason

        Show me a player who hasn’t used roids in the past 10 years.

        This is a good sign for a veteran team. Byrd had a solid season whether he was on the juice or not. Amaro is adding a piece at a decent price to help get this team back in the running. He’s trying to win now with that squad.

        And, it’s only a 2 year deal for Byrd.

        A great sign by Amaro!

        • CubFan Paul

          “Show me a player who hasn’t used roids in the past 10 years”

          Darwin Barney.

          • jh03

            I take your Darwin Barney and raise you a Tony Campana.

            • hansman

              I’m all in with Koyie Hill.

              • jh03

                Shit. I think you just took the pot.

  • Andy

    One more trade idea: Barney and Russell to Detroit for Porcello…..they need a defensive 2B and a lefty reliever. Porcello dropped a 3.17 XFIP last year.

    • YourResidentJag

      Gonna take more than that.

    • Voice of Reason

      Barney sucks. He can’t crack the starting line up for a team that has lost 90+ games the past three years. Why in the world would Detroit take him as one of two involved for a starting pitcher?

    • Kyle

      That’s not even in the same universe as what Detroit will ask for.

      • When the Music’s Over

        Somehow, there’s still a decent chunk of people that think Barney is an attractive trade target. There’s literally almost no way they can be convinced otherwise.

        • Voice of Reason

          The question they need to ask themselves is…

          If they think Barney is so good then why can he not start for a terrible baseball team (the Cubs). He is a gold glove second baseman, but the Cubs don’t care!

          Obviously he has zero trade value unless he’s thrown in to a bigger deal.

          • aaronb

            He’s got zero trade value. I’d guess it 50/50 that he gets non-tendered.

  • kq

    I think barney gets traded before non-tendered but I doubt him and russell can land Porcello, but I think the Cubs will for sure look into it. Hes a perfect fit for what they are trying to do.

  • Andy

    What do you guys think about trading Starlin for Shelby Miller? Put Donnie Murphy or whoever at SS as a placeholder until Baez is ready? We clear out the infield logjam a little and get a young stud SP. Cards can afford to deal Miller and need a SS.

    • Deacon

      Close but I’d want a reliever in the deal as well. Castro is young and cost controlled.

  • Lynn Todd

    It makes complete sense for the Cubs to go after Tanaka. I would rather have Tanaka than Shark (over rated). The money it will take to keep Shark will be better spent on the younger and better pitcher Tanaka. Plus the Cubs need to make a strong statement not to its fans but of all MLB teams and not let this prize get away.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Really great article on fangraphs, on what a disaster it was to have Starlin Castro change his approach, and try and be more patient as a hitter. He saw over 300 more pitches last season, but his walk rate actually went down, 4.3% from 5.2%, while his strikeout rate went from 14.5% to 18.3%.
    And they show the correlation, that as soon as Rudy Jaramillo was fired along with his emphasis on mechanics, Castro began to decline as a hitter. Teacher, leave them kids alone.

    • Jon

      Firing Jarmillo was fucking stupid. Now did he preach OBP to the mountaintops no? But he wasn’t necessarily Dusty Baker like in terms of “anti OPB”.
      He was a well respected hitting coach.

      • mjhurdle

        I wouldn’t call it stupid. He was one of the highest paid hitting coaches in baseball at the time, and the offense was horrible in his final year.
        I wouldn’t put all that blame on jaramillo, because there wasn’t a lot of talent to work with either, but it wasn’t like he was working miracles and they just dropped him.
        Im not sure it was smart, or stupid. More of a ‘meh’ move to me.
        just my opinion though.

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