No, there is still no firm decision on whether 25-year-old right-handed Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will be made available to MLB teams this offseason. While MLB and NPB have reportedly come to an agreement on a new posting system that would allow NPB teams to sell the rights to their players to the highest bidder, that agreement appears to be subject to a $20 million maximum price, and then the right of MLB teams who “tie” with a maximum bid to negotiate with the player. That low maximum price has rankled the Rakuten Golden Eagles, the NPB team that currently holds Tanaka’s rights for the next two years.
Jeff Passan polled executives yesterday at the Winter Meetings, and he felt like there was an even split in opinion on whether Tanaka will actually be posted this offseason. Throw in an article from Peter Gammons that included a quote from the Golden Eagles’ owner that he doesn’t intend to post Tanaka, and folks are on edge. I’d caution folks to take the Gammons piece with a grain of salt: were Gammons reporting that the Golden Eagles will not post Tanaka, it wouldn’t have come in the form of a buried quote (from last Wednesday) in the middle of a long-form, fluffy piece on the Boston Red Sox and the Golden Eagles.
In other words, we still don’t know what’s going to happen. The president of the Golden Eagles is expected to be at the Winter Meetings today, so we may get some clarity by the end of the day. It has been interesting to see how much the Tanaka uncertainty has not impacted the rest of the offseason for the vast majority of teams. In any case, Passan adds this morning that it’s clear that Tanaka wants to come to MLB, and it’s just a matter of whether his team will grant him that wish (in exchange for $20 million). The team’s president has previously indicated they would not stand in his way.
As for whether the Chicago Cubs will be involved on Tanaka, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer essentially said what he’s said all along: the Cubs are monitoring and will be involved, depending on how things shake out. Hoyer told the media (including Cubs.com) that, despite any reports to the contrary, there is no connection between the Cubs’ ability to sign Jeff Samardzija to an extension and its pursuit of Tanaka. In other words, it’s not an either/or proposition, and the Cubs’ decision on one hand will not impact the other.*
*(Although Hoyer was speaking directly to the idea that the Cubs won’t have the money for both, you could also take his comments as a reminder that there is nothing inconsistent, in terms of The Plan, with trading Samardzija for young talent while still signing the 25-year-old Tanaka to a long-term deal.)
Further, Hoyer bristled at the idea that outside sources truly know what the Cubs’ financial situation is or is not. Patrick Mooney captured Hoyer’s money quote:
“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.”
Do the Cubs have enough to sign Tanaka to a $100 million+ contract? Well, I guess we don’t know. But we do know that, outwardly, Tanaka fits everything the Cubs have said they want to acquire: there is no free agency for young, prime talent, but this is as close as it gets. The Cubs need impact arms, and the Cubs have not spent extravagantly this offseason – or even replaced the dollars that have gone out the door over the past 15 months. There’s such a fit here, that, if we aren’t to believe that the Cubs don’t have the money to go after Tanaka, then I choose to take Hoyer at his word and presume that the Cubs will go after Tanaka with a reasonable sum of cash.