The most exciting free agent left on the market remains not a free agent, with Masahiro Tanaka’s future left in the hands of the still-not-technically-finalized posting agreement between MLB and NPB, as well as his team in Japan’s sense of whether getting a measly $20 million for his rights is worth parting with their 25-year-old ace. The Chicago Cubs are presumed to be very interested in Tanaka, given that he outwardly fits their stated needs/desires/plans/etc. quite perfectly, so we’re watching his situation like a hawk.
To that end, good news (well, good rumor, anyway): Jon Morosi hears from one interested team’s GM that he believes Tanaka will be posted, and Morosi thinks we’ll hear about it one way or the other within the next day or two.
So, would you like to become irrationally optimistic about the Cubs’ chances of landing Tanaka, despite the expected large price tag and feeding frenzy market?
First, there was Joel Sherman’s piece, referenced in the earlier Winter Meetings update, which indicated that sources say the Yankees may not have the money for Tanaka, regardless of what happens the rest of the way for them. I don’t think you can ever count the Yankees out, but the dollars in Sherman’s piece certainly laid out a convincingly uphill case for the Yankees if they want to stay under the $189 million luxury tax cap (and they do).
The other presumed major players include the Rangers (whose GM said last month they were not looking to sign a multi-year free agent stater for huge money) and Red Sox (whose ownership might still feel burned by the Daisuke Matsuzaka failure (even though that front office is now largely with the Cubs, ownership tends to feel more burned by those kinds of things than the baseball guys)). Neither of those parentheticals knock the respective teams out of the bidding, but, if you’re looking to be irrationally optimistic …
I can’t offer you much optimism on the Mariners, who could be in full-on spend-splurge mode, and who play in a city (I’m told) with a significant Japanese population (for an ownership with Japanese ties). But, hey, if there were only one other major bidder in the running for Tanaka, you’d feel pretty good.
So, things are looking pretty bright, right? I mean, there’s a lot of extrapolation in there, and anything can happen, but that’s a lot of major players on the fence with respect to the Cubs’ presumed number one target.
… but then Bruce Levine tweeted this:
GM Jed Hoyer not ruling out Cubs interest in Tanaka. Said teams resources are better kept in house
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 9, 2013
I won’t pretend to know exactly what Hoyer meant by that latter part, or what Levine meant in transcribing it. It could be nothing that we haven’t heard before – free agent dollars are the least efficient dollars. Or it could be a little pushback from Hoyer after he’d previously said the Cubs would be “involved” in the Tanaka process, and folks ran wild with it. Theo Epstein wouldn’t specifically comment on Tanaka, and it’s possible the front office is distancing themselves from the perception that they’ll go hard on Tanaka. That could be gamesmanship (why tell the world that you’re going to pay big bucks for him? no advantage there), or it could be legit. I’m working hard to convince myself that it’s just one tweet, with so many layers of interpretation that it’s not worth discarding all that we’ve previously heard on Tanaka (which indicates the Cubs will be serious bidders). But I’m working really hard.
I expect most of you will choose to read the tweet pessimistically, and will be irrationally deflated.
This emotional roller coaster has been provided to you courtesy of BN’s Winter Meetings coverage. Enjoy your dinner!