masahiro tanakaThe 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).

Then, you’ve got the Dodgers, who are reportedly focusing heavily on a David Price trade, and who are said to be lukewarm on the idea of going all out for Tanaka.

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:

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!

  • 5412


    I LOVED THE TWEET ABOUT BETTER KEPT IN HOUSE. It could be a great negotiation strategy. Why would he say they were going to go hog wild? They want other teams to think the opposite so they don’t run the price through the roof.

    Brett here is one thing that no one has factored. In the old posting system the player could only negotiate with one team. Now he has the option of playing one team against the other. If his agent is smart, he will bring his player to the US, be courted by all the bidders, get their initial bids……then go back to the team he wants to play for and tell them where they need to be and negotiate from there.

    Much better if they are all small to start with as that is only the first round in the process. If they come back to the Cubs a second time then the process is simple, “If we can agree on a number is your client willing to commit today?” That way you make sure you are not being jerked around like they were last year by the kid in Detroit. Every time the Cubs raised the offer last year they just ran back to Detroit with the new number.

    After the first round of bidding you never raise your bid unless both sides signal this is a good faith negotiations. If they negotiate and the agent says he wants to look around some more you do two things. Immediately remove the offer and make sure the league knows the agent speaks with forked tongue.


  • jmc

    I have heard about something called old pappy Van Winkle but never tasted it. Anybody?

    • Hee Seop Chode

      I had some last weekend. It’s kinda like bouron county beer by goose island; very good, but overhyped due to scarcity.

  • Jono

    Maybe the FO is planning on making bryant and baez offers like the way the rays offered longoria, meaning extremely early and team friendly. If so, those offers will be coming fairly soon, possibly within a year.

    This could be considered the “in-house” spending, or even extending samardzina

    • Rebuilding

      I would. Take this for what it’s worth, but here is Oliver’s 5 year Baez projection:

      2014: 4.4WAR. 33HRs
      2015: 5.3WAR 37 HRs
      2016: 6.0WAR 40HRs
      2017: 6.5WAR 42HRs
      2018: 6.7WAR 43 HRs

      • Edwin

        I don’t know how Oliver is calculating that, but I have very little faith in that projection. Few players ever have that much success right out of the gate, even with minor league number’s like Baez.

        Not that I don’t like Oliver projections, but in this case, I’d take that projection with a grain of salt.

        • Rebuilding

          Like I said, take it for what it’s worth. For 2014 it projects a 298 OBP so a lot of swing and miss, but the system thinks his power is for real

      • Hollywood

        Omg… you can’t just “calculate” numbers like that. Baseball is so much more random and you can’t make projections unless they are very broad ones. Like “Beaz will probably have power.” This isn’t a game of computers and robots…

        • Rebuilding

          Uhhhhh…people make projections all of the time based on historical precedent. This FO certainly has a projection system based on historical similarities. Oliver is a highly respected system. You can choose to ignore if you wish

        • cubs44

          Uhhhh Baez WILL have power. You can’t just lose it. You obviously haven’t seen this kid swing.

        • terencemann

          I’d like to see a projection system that works in 3 year increments instead of linearly. In other words, I think it would be more accurate or more fair to write a projection system that accepts that most players will have at least one year out of a three year developmental period that isn’t as good as the other years.

      • Jason P

        That would put him a little more than a fourth of the way there to breaking the home run record by the time he’s 25.

        • Rebuilding

          Well, he hit 37 HRs at age 20 in 2 pitcher’s leagues. That’s about as rare as it gets

          • Jason P

            Rare, yes, but not unheard of. You could count on 1 hand the number of players who have hit 25 home runs before their 26th birthday.

            • Jason P

              *200 home runs before their 26th birthday

              • Rebuilding

                True. He’s a special player, but everything would have to break right obviously. I don’t think he’ll get the chance to hit that many HRs this year so that lessens the total some

      • Jono

        You forgot the 0s at the end of those numbers, my friend (read in a thick Chicago accent)

  • Justin

    Why would any team interested in Tanaka want to act overly excited about how much they want him? I just don’t see the upside in acting like you have to have him. And see plenty of reasons to act like you’re indifferent or not in on him if you really want him.

  • Cubbie Tim

    Brett, did you hear the cubs are interested in Nat’s Clippard & Storen? Posted on MLBTR

    • Blackhawks1963

      I’d welcome either Stoeren or Clippard. But what do we have to trade? Both would require trading away quality talent. Jeff Russell by himself will not get a deal done.

  • Jorbert Solmora

    Johan interests me on a prove it contract.

  • Luke

    In context of the larger conversation the report was referring to, could assets being kept in house refer to prospects. In other words, instead of trading player assets for pitching, sign a pitcher and keep those prospects in house?

    • When the Music’s Over

      That’s how I read it.

    • T-Bone

      Ive watched the interview. Reporters were trying to gage his interest in Tanaka in terms of dollars and cents. He wants to keep the amount of resources in house and is not putting numbers out there and doesnt believe doing so would be good management.

  • Jason P

    This all sounds a lot like the way they talked before the Darvish post. “We’re not ruling anything out, but don’t necessarily expect anything”.

    For the Cubs sake, I hope this whole thing plays out a little longer. Let the Mariners gets little antsy and go after someone else. Let someone else land Price and take themselves out if the Tanaka sweepstakes.

    • Rebuilding

      I think it’s how they will talk about every post forever. There is no need to tip your hand and show interest or non-interest so a bunch of fans online can parse your every word. It’s basically blah blah blah

      • Jason P

        I pretty much agree. But there are subtle differences in wording and tone you can usually pick up on. When I listened to Theo on Sportstalk live, he didn’t sound overly enthusiastic talking about Tamaka. Could be gamesmanship, of course, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  • You got bats, we got Wood. Travis Wood.

    The Mariners have the money and the desire to significantly upgrade their team. Cano by himself isn’t enough, Tanaka makes all the sense in the world. They brought Ichiro to America, and have a lot of Japanese ties. I think the early comments by Jed/Theo were their ways of explaining themselves to the fans, I.e. “We wanted Tanaka because he’s a perfect fit, but ultimately we felt that our money was better off kept in house for our future stars. The money spent by Team Blank we felt was too high for his services. Until we get more revenue, we’re not going to overspend in FA until we have a core group of players contending year in and out.” Let’s be real, they’re not gonna spend big money on anyone until those revenue streams are in tact. Ricketts and the FO have been very clear about “The Plan,” it’s just a matter of how well these high draft pick/international/DFA-Waiver-Rule 5 players pan out and then we’ll fill in the pieces. I’m on board, and excited for our prospects, and yes EJax was a pricier move last year, but I think we’re on an incredibly low spending budget for the next 2-3 years at least. I think come 2019-2020 with a completely renovated stadium and monster TV deal the team will then have the money to spend big/attract big free agents/win. I just don’t see it happening before that, regardless of how well the Big Four-Five-Six pan out. I also don’t think we technically need big time FA signings to win but I think having a much larger budget can’t hurt!

  • Joe

    I believe the Yankee, and Dodgers are out of it if the price start going high. The Dodger at some point will need to consider extension for Kershaw, who will most likely become the highest paid pitcher.. Red Sox and Texas have shown little inclination for very expensive free agents as of late. So the Cubs should have a shot at Tanaka, if their FO feel he’s worth it. Theo hates paying for past performance and often states that he doesn’t like free agent because you pay for the back end of their career based on their prime years. With Tanaka, you are paying for his prime years.
    Having said that, he will be Seattle’s to lose, because:
    1. Seattle just inked a $2 bill tv deal that runs 17 years.
    2. Owner is 6th richest in MLB and knows Tanaka’s culture well – Nintendo fortune.
    3. GM did a horrible rebuild job and now may wish to build a contender via free agency. Based on Brett’s earlier piece, you may despise them but it also shows their desire to win.
    4. Some afterthoughts – Seattle is closest mlb city to Japan, and has one of the largest Japanese population in the US. Oh, and no state income tax. Not sure if these matter but can’t hurt.

  • Funn Dave

    So…in the same tweet…Hoyer’s not ruling out Cubbie interest in Tanaka…but Hoyer also thinks their money’s best spent in house….Am I missing something here? Are these statements not patently contradictory?

    • Jeff

      That is expertly crafted Public Relations…you tell the fan base that you have interest in a attractive free agent, then you deflate the tires by pointing to the true reality that it’s probably not going to happen without directly saying there’s no chance in Hell it will happen.

  • Ghost of Brett Jackson

    Jed’s comments expanded, makes much more sense in context.

    “What people are speculating about our resources – they’re not based on any kinds of facts,” Hoyer said. “There’s very few people that know exactly what we have the resources to do and obviously we’ll keep that internal. I think one thing in this game is that you don’t get any points for having people out there know how much money you do or do not have to spend.”

    • Brains

      I pick on Jed’s decisions because he flies under the radar and I think he deserves it for a C- job so far. But it’s hard to blame him if he doesn’t have resources on hand. If he did he’d have said something quite different, about how the team wants to compete and will do what it takes to make a showing. That’s traditional baseball language framing, so this indicates what we’ve mostly already figured out here.

      • Mike Feeney

        “A c- job so far”

        Just curious if you could expand on that grade with some reasons. Specifics like deals he made that you hate. Moves he could have made and didn’t. etc etc

        • Brains

          Well, how about just *one* impact player for the MLB squad to build around? Just one. And don’t say Rizzo. He might well turn out to be a great addition for the team, but he’s not a centerpiece.

          • BT

            Travis Wood was an all star, and Hoyer got him for a middle reliever with an expiring contract.

            • Brains

              love travis, but i’m not sure that’s an impact signing. even though he’s been limited in action and money, he hasn’t been nearly as creative as the upper 1/3 of GMs out there, and the mlb squad looks much worse than before. much, much, much worse. internal problems or not, a great GM finds ways to make lemonade.

              • Ghost of Brett Jackson

                He didn’t sign Wood, he traded a middle reliver for him.

                • Edwin

                  Sean Marshall wasn’t just some “middle reliver” though. Over 2010 and 2011 he was one of the best relief pitchers in the game. So it’s not like the Cubs got Travis Wood for nothing. They gave up a pretty nice asset in Marshall for him.

                  • Ghost of Brett Jackson

                    Value of a reliver and the value of a starter are worlds apart.

              • BT

                So a GM in charge of a rebuilding project gets dinged, in your world, because the major league team looks worse after he starts rebuilding it (even though the minor league team is profoundly better)? I’m not sure how to even respond to that. You understand that’s essentially the working definition of how a rebuild works, right?

                • Brains

                  i understand better than you might think, though from a different industry. and this is not a “rebuild”, that’s just the public relations term for an internal restructuring that includes taking profits off of the top by the top in preparation for a later investment that might or might not happen.

                • CubFan Paul

                  “a GM in charge of a rebuilding project gets dinged…because the major league team looks worse *(two offseasons later)* after he starts rebuilding it”

                  Yes. You have to sign the talent when available. Lack of resources has kept Theo&Co from doing that (see Brains above).

                  The next impact free agent signed or traded for will be the first impact free agent signed or traded for (2 plus years later).

                  • Norm

                    What’s the definition of an “Impact” free agent?

                    • CubFan Paul

                      Not Nate Schierholtz or Scott Feldman.

                    • Norm

                      “Not Nate Schierholtz or Scott Feldman.”

                      They’ve already signed FA’s that were not Nate Schierholtz or Scott Feldman.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “They’ve already signed FA’s that were not Nate Schierholtz or Scott Feldman”

                      None were/are impact.

                    • Norm

                      Oh, your definition was “not Nate or Feldman”…please expand on your definition of “impact”.
                      Is it a 3 WAR player? Is it based on dollar amount? Home runs? Veteran Leadership? Grindiness?

                    • bbmoney

                      I love disagreements about the definition of completely subjective terms. They’re my favorite.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      Are you done being an ass Norm? What’s your point here?

                      If you’re trying to disprove me, get to it.

                    • Norm

                      I’m not trying to disprove anything. I’m trying to understand what the heck an “impact” free agent is but for some reason you can’t tell me.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      I’m not Wikipedia or Bing.

                  • Brains

                    it’s been widely available! hair splitting time….i’m sure

          • Mike Feeney

            Okay but which one? I am not saying I agree or disagree with your grade. But I was wondering if you had specific moves in mind?

            I mean do you think we should have signed Pujols? Hamilton? Fielder? Do you think Jed should have traded some of our big time prospects for Fielder? Or Adrian Gonzalez?

            • Brains

              i hate doing what i like to call “blog homework”, because someone usually asks for a lot of information just to split hairs or reject what was said. so i usually keep it to meta discussion. but i would definitely have *kept* soriano and resigned garaza, for one. those were both dumps with little probable return. olt just isn’t going to make it due to health problems.

              i’ll do something unusual here and say what i would have done without the benefit of hindsight. i also might have signed torii hunter, carlos beltran, albert pujols or prince fielder, or another aging star or two just to keep things rolling for a while. i don’t believe in the strategy that you have to purposefully lose in order to win by dismantling all semblance of a past order. it’s stalinist.

              • Mike Feeney

                I just don’t think the money was there to sign those big name guys. And I am not sure how many more wins any one of those players would have brought us in the last couple years. A few more wins and we wouldn’t have Bryant in the pipeline. And I think CJ Edwards will make the Garza trade a win with or without Olt.

                But thank you for elaborating.

                Personally I do think Hoyer has had a little bad luck at times too. I mean BJax struggles? Vitters being hurt basically all season. Edwin having a tough season. Marmol blowing up. Some arms blowing up as well. Some stuff didn’t break the Cubs way.

              • CubFan Paul

                “olt just isn’t going to make it due to health problems”

                Problems, plural?

                Olt gets NO love after ONE down season (Castro too). Whatever happened to failure being a good thing to learn from

          • terencemann

            If Baez and or Bryant are on the MLB team by the end of the year and are making an impact, isn’t that an impact talent added to the MLB team?

            • Brains

              we all know better than that… rookies rarely make an impact right away. some do, but most take a few years to mature. and odds are, if history is any indication, that only one of them will even remain on the mlb roster longer than 3 years.

            • papabear

              Bryant will not be on the cubs team till July 2015

              • Rebuilding

                I’ll take that bet

      • Rebuilding

        Jed Hoyer doesn’t make the big decisions. Impossible to sign him a grade

        • Brains

          If this is true, has baseball ever had a GM so emasculated by his boss?

          • Rebuilding

            All of the time. Every Yankees GM. Arguably Theo in Boston for starters

            • Brains

              hah, touche, i accept this answer

  • Ghost of Brett Jackson

    I disagree, this FO is always going to be secretive no matter the finances.