Prepare to Be Irrationally Optimistic and then Irrationally Deflated About Masahiro Tanaka

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!

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

152 responses to “Prepare to Be Irrationally Optimistic and then Irrationally Deflated About Masahiro Tanaka”

  1. Kyle

    I was never inflated to be deflated.

  2. Brains

    “Better kept in house”, as in the Ricketts pockets.

    Good post, I just don’t see how it’s possible that the Cubs, who are unable to bid on even mediocre players, will be players for the top pitcher and at such a high price.

    1. cub2014

      brains, what are you talking about?
      please expound!

      1. Brains

        i’m just being pessimistic. i’ll happily eat my words if we sign him. giddily, even!

    2. TOOT

      “Good post, I just don’t see how it’s possible that the Cubs, who are unable to bid on even mediocre players, will be players for the top pitcher and at such a high price”

      For consideration; Who says he will be a “top pitcher” when the dust settles? Could be a bust.

      1. Brains

        true that, but it’s unlikely that it would be that bad. maybe he ends up an overpaid #2, but not a bust.

        1. TOOT

          Yes, but would that be worth the payout? It’s all relative, as I’m sure yo know.

          1. Jay

            Mentioning Dice-K is something people should bring up more often to temper this Tanaka-mania. I’m sure we all remember the same thing happened back then as well and talk about the hype not playing over here at the MLB level.

            1. Rebuilding

              There are always injury risks with pitchers. He put up a 4.1 and 5.3 WAR his first two years and led them to a WS in 2007.

              1. hansman

                This. Matzusaka was a really good pitcher for two years.

              2. Scotti

                Exactly. He was worth that contract.

            2. T-Bone

              Maybe we should make a clause in his contract that he cant pitch in the WBC and develop arm fatigue.

    3. T-Bone

      After watching the interviews, he meant we arent trying to tip our hand. He doesnt want anyone outisde the organization knowing how much they have to spend. Thats my interpretation of it all.

  3. cubfanbob

    It’s code for the Cubs are all in for Tanaka

  4. The Logos

    Who’s eating dinner right now, anyway?

  5. YourResidentJag

    Hopefully, the Cubs will be saying “Winner, winner. Chicken Dinner.” once they add Tanaka. ;)

    1. The Logos

      Ha! Yes.

  6. walterj

    I just read it as ,” How high they are willing to go will not be known to the public .”

  7. Jon

    If we don’t get him at least we tried.

  8. Die hard

    Breaking news? Yankees and ARod reach settlement to be blessed by Bud and avoid ruling by Arbitrator– ARod waives 10/5 and accepts 30 games w/o pay.. Yankees trade him to Tigers for PTBNL and eat 85% of salary..

  9. Rebuilding

    What did I miss? I don’t see anything to be deflated about. He didnt rule out interest and wouldn’t answer the question about posting fees/financial covenants. Now if he would have ruled us out and said posting fees count against the covenants I would be deflated

    1. Scotti

      At $20 million the posting fee is not in the Cubs favor. With multiple bidders bidding up his actual salary the Cubs are basically sunk.

      1. TOOT

        I thought you couldn’t bid up? Am my missing something?

        1. Scotti

          The player’s salary (after the posting fee goes to the team) will be much larger than it would have been previously.

          1. Rebuilding

            Yes it will be. The overall financial commitment likely close to the same as its possible he might have fetched a $60 million posting fee

      2. Rebuilding

        Disagree. Whether $50 million posting fee $60 million contract or $20 million posting fee $100 million contract it was likely to be the same suspects going for him. The only difference is that more counting to salary cap might restrain Yankees somewhat

        1. Scotti

          If the reports about the posting fee “not counting” in the Ricketts’ unique deal with Zell are correct, then there is a huge difference. For easy math let’s say it winds up being $100 million. The Cubs would rather $50 million of that be in posting fee (that reportedly doesn’t count re. the Zell deal) than $20 million.

          1. Rebuilding

            Very doubtful we are anywhere near the salary restrictions. They are prob over $100 mil and our payroll is $75

            1. TOOT


            2. Scotti

              There are no salary restrictions, per se. There is just the notion that they cannot go into debt to run the business and pay down the debt. For whatever reason, the posting fee was deemed outside that (perhaps it falls into maintenance issues like the rebuild, Soler, etc.). Not so a huge free agent contract.

  10. Cheese Chad

    Maybe it meant that they teams position on certain players are best kept in house?

  11. ssckelley

    Oh no, we suck again!!!!

    1. cub2014

      great “waterboy” reference

  12. Jon

    Bruce Levine is worthless, so I’m guessing he misinterpreted what Hoyer said with his tweet, but indeed, if that is verbeatum what Hoyer meant, that’s just stupid.

    Resources better kept in house? Meaning, you just rather not spend the money?

    1. DarthHater

      “Resources better kept in house? Meaning, you just rather not spend the money?”

      I took the statement to be telegraphing that the Cubs might end up having to choose between extending Samardzija (in house) or signing Tanaka (out of house).

      1. caryatid62

        This was debunked in the same interview, I believe:

        Patrick Mooney @CSNMooney
        Hoyer says Tanaka bid wouldn’t impact Samardzija talks: “They’re not attached at all. It’s not an either/or-type thing.”

        1. DarthHater

          Okay. Guess I hope that’s true, assuming Tanaka is really worth signing, of course.

  13. macpete22

    Nats shopping Espinosa. Would you guys do a swap of him for Barney?

  14. Die hard

    Be careful what u wish for— Tanaka includes word tank and aka– first bad outing headline — Tanaka aka tank

    1. DarthHater

      It’s also an anagram of ‘katana,’ which is a Samurai sword. Of course, that could lead either to cool stories about slicing through opposing lineups or to stories about committing seppuku.

      1. Die hard

        I was on that path but stopped when realized may be insensitive.. That never stopped you before tho

        1. DarthHater

          And it never will, my friend. :-P

      2. abe

        katana means little one in Hebrew.

  15. Eric

    I don’t think there is any reason to view Hoyer’s statements differently than those coming out of the Yankee or Dodger camps. They will downplay their interest because it’s not good business to do otherwise.

    The last thing the Cubs need is for Tanaka’s agent playing the Cubs’ stated interest against them.

  16. regimezefelerski

    Thanks Brett

  17. Steve

    Hey Jon—-Take it easy on Bruce Levine. His ESPN show “Talkin’ Baseball” had been on Saturday mornings from 9-noon for over 2 decades. until the station execs decided to cancel the show. He must be experiencing some problems interpreting what Hoyer had to say about the Cubs. Levine is one of the most knowledgeable baseball reporters in the Chicago area.

    1. Blue Lagoon

      Levine lost his fastball several years ago. He’s been irrelevant for awhile. And he hasn’t adapted well the the new hard cold world of 24/7 news and the increased irrelevance of the print media.

  18. Blackhawks1963

    The chances of the Cubs getting Tanaka are extremely remote. There WILL be a feeding frenzy for his services and there are plenty of contending clubs in the mix.

    It’s also a load of hoey to say Tanaka will be out of the price range of the Yankees. The desperately need a starting pitcher and didn’t just spend huge on McCann, Ellsbury, Beltran and Kuroda to all of a sudden get “principled” and worry about the luxury tax consequence.

  19. Gcheezpuff

    I read this differently. I read it as they are very interested in him because they need pitching and don’t want to trade assets to get one (keep resources in house). I am probably wrong, but that I how I viewed the comment. I fear Seattle, but see the Cubs heavily involved.

    1. Blackhawks1963

      As far as the Cubs are concerned I just want the Tanaka derby to mercifully end so we can move onto discussion of relevance for this franchise. When you add up all the factors in motion I put our chances of signing Tanaka at less than 5%. Why we waste time talking about this all day long is beyond me. Of far more relevance is what does or does not happen on the Samardzija front and stuff like the latest rumor suggesting Hoyer is talking to the Nationals about Clippard and Stoeren.

  20. JulioZuleta

    Pretty sure Hoyer means the way they plan on allocating resources is better kept in house, and not discussed with reporters. Bruce might have trimmed/paraphrased to fit 140 characters.

    1. Jorbert Solmora

      That’s how I read it as well. They know our financial situation and others don’t need to know.

    2. TulaneCubs

      That’s how I read it too.

  21. Die hard

    Only barrier between Cubs being a contender and cellar dweller is lack of liquidity.. Daddy Ricketts could loan 100 million to Cubs at 5% to make it happen

    1. DarthHater
    2. Scotti

      My understanding is that any loan would violate the rules governing the tax deal that Zell received upon the sale of the team to the Ricketts family. That would, in essence, make the family responsible for all taxes that Zell would then incur (the capital gains taxes Zell avoided). That’s capital gains on $850M (sale price) minus $20M (the price originally paid). Capital gains on $830M would be huge–a humongous figure (and the reason that Zell chose the Ricketts smaller $850M bid to the more conventional straight up $1 Billion bid from Mark Cuban).

      1. DarthHater

        Stoopid facts. Always interfering…

  22. jmc

    I am eating dinner. Early bird special

  23. chrismarti

    Signing players to big deals not proven in the us worries me. Although he fits what we need young with ace (or at least #2) potential. I say go for it. These are the type of players we need to get and build around

  24. Drew

    Fuk U Do Me!!!

  25. bbrave307

    Everyone seems to think the resources being referred to is money. Maybe the resources referred to are the minor league prospects.

    If we want to keep the prospects in house we would go after Tanaka. Just a thought.

  26. MightyBear

    To tell the truth, I wish the whole Tanaka thing would be over. I would love the Cubs to sign him and him turn into a Yu Darvish comp ace but I don’t think the Cubs are going to end up with him, so its hard for me to get pumped about him. I’m kinda sick of hearing about the posting BS and whether he’ll post or not and who’s going to be in on him.

    1. YourResidentJag

      Me too.

    2. chrismarti


    3. woody

      Agreed. Ready to hear. Let’s play ball.

    4. Blackhawks1963


    5. cubmig

      Agree with what you say MightyBear. Plus, I think we ought to save all the commentary until we know his team will (and DO) post him. That is still unsettled…………first things first.

  27. jmc

    On an entirely different note,Cubs fans have it bad we all agree how about the poor Bears fans? 12 degrees here now wind howling. What do you recommend that they should drink?

    1. MightyBear


    2. TOOT

      Vodka and cranberry mix!

  28. bbrave307

    I think the Cubs sign him if he gets posted.

  29. cubfanincardinalland

    What we will see is a recognition that Tanaka is not that good. Several of my customers in Japan are big baseball fans. They tell me that Tanaka is nowhere near as good as Darvish. Not very big, almost a relief pitcher body, relies on splitter and trick pitches to get guys out. Does not blow guys away like Darvish can. They think 100 million dollar contract is crazy for him.

    1. MightyBear

      Yeah, I’m not near as excited about Tanaka as I was for Darvish. I hope the Cubs get him and I’m wrong and he’s even better than Darvish.

    2. Rebuilding

      Here is an in depth scouting report on Tanaka. If by “uses junk to get people out” you mean that he has what some have called the best splitter in the world then yeah. It’s a true SO pitch:

      1. Rebuilding

        “Some of the worst swings I have ever seen in high level professional baseball have come off Tanaka’s splitter.”

        Comps based on pitch data:

        FB: Kyle Lohse – least impressive pitch, sits around 90
        Slider: Jeff Samardzija – hard, sharp slider
        2 seam: Lincecum – effective against lefties
        Splitter: Kuroda – see above
        Curve: Iwakamu – slower, bigger curve

        1. cubfanincardinalland

          I appreciate the scouting report link. He scares me, how many big league starters rely on a split finger? Few, if any. And average fastball of 90.
          I mean would you give Kyle Lohse 100 million bucks?

          1. Rebuilding

            True. Although they say he can touch 96 “when he wants to”. In the article the only American pitcher that has thrown a split that much recently is Dan Haren who had a great stretch 2005-11

            1. CubFan Paul

              “only American pitcher that has thrown a split that much recently is”

              Jeff Samardzija

              1. Rebuilding

                Good point

            2. Edwin

              I’m always skeptical when a scouting report mentions something about “Player X can touch 96 when he wants to”. If Tanaka can’t throw mid 90′s consistently, or doesn’t have control when he does, then it doesn’t matter that he can touch 96. I think average fastball velocity is more important than peak velocity.

              In Tanaka’s case, if his average fastball velocity is 90-91, that’s fine, as long as he has good command/movement, and has good secondary pitches.

              1. Rebuilding

                I understand what you are saying. I have no way of knowing about Tanaka specifically, but I do know in Japan it’s highly valued to go deeper in games (as youngsters they don’t even worry about pitch counts) so a lot of guys don’t put a ton on their fastball. Especially when they’re splitter is such a wipeout pitch. I have no idea where he can consistently throw, but my guess is a touch higher than 90-91

  30. Senor Cub

    The Cubs have as good a chance as any other team on Tanaka right now. We are not out until officially eliminated, that’s what I say. Tanaka, Shark, Jackson, Wood, and whomever steps up this year. That rotation doesn’t look all that bad, not great, but not bad either.

    1. Blackhawks1963

      These rainbow and gum drops fantasy brought to you courtesy Señor Gato.

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