You knew this was coming, right? As soon as Masahiro Tanaka was officially posted, and so long as the Cubs remain involved, this became an Obsessive Watch. Let’s be honest: it has been for weeks already. And it could be right up until the 4pm, January 24 deadline for him to sign.
- Although we touched on it previously, with the holiday, it bears noting again: Dave Kaplan reports, via a MLB source, that the Cubs “will not be outbid on Tanaka.” Kaplan and his source made sure to note that, even if it’s true that the Cubs will be the top bidder, there is no guarantee that the Cubs will get him – they’ve still got to sell him on the team and the city of Chicago. But the mere fact that this is getting out there is notable, and it’s not hard to see the rumor originating with the Cubs. Unlike a secret bidding process where you wouldn’t want any of your competitors to know the level of your interest, in the highest of high profile free agencies like this, it doesn’t necessarily hurt you in the same way to have the world believing that they shouldn’t even bother offering huge dollars – because, no matter what, you’re going to top it.
- Is that how things will actually play out? I’ve gotta be honest, I have my doubts. It’s not hard to see the Tanaka bidding approaching seven years and $140 million, which is an extremely risky investment for even the richest teams. Tanaka’s age makes you much more optimistic on a deal like that, but still. After years of being led to believe that the Cubs don’t have the money for nine figure deals right now, are they suddenly going to come up with the money to nab Tanaka? And, if they do, are there going to be draconian financial repercussions for the rest of the roster in the next year or two?
- Speaking of the rest of the roster, Bruce Levine points out what everyone is thinking when it comes to the Cubs and Tanaka: there might be a Jeff Samardzija connection here. No, it isn’t the either-or situation that folks feared (and Jed Hoyer explicitly denied) – instead, Levine implies that landing Tanaka could shift the paradigm of discussions between the Cubs and Samardzija. Given Samardzija’s recent comments about wanting the Cubs to demonstrate a desire to compete in the nearer term before he agrees to an extension, there’s a lot of plausibility here. (For my part, I’m not sure I see a reason to connect one to the other, even in this way – if the Cubs land 25-year-old Tanaka on a, say, seven-year deal, I can still see plausible reasons to trade 29-year-old Samardzija for early-20s prospects. I know that’s horrible to say, and I do still believe a reasonable extension is the best outcome. I’m just saying, you don’t rule out a trade just because Tanaka comes along. He, alone, doesn’t make this team a winner in the next year or two.)
- The big “news” early in the process is that Tanaka has reportedly selected Casey Close as his agent. Close, among many, many other players, apparently represents big-time Dodgers starters Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke (as well as Yankees star Derek Jeter). Some offer that as an indication that Tanaka is already leaning toward signing with the Dodgers (or the Yankees), though I’m really not sure how strongly this cuts in any direction. On the one hand, when a guy is coming from another country, I could see the familiarity/connections being a factor in where he ultimately lands, should the money be the same. On the other hand, with free agency looming after next season for Kershaw, couldn’t you make the argument that Close has an incentive to maximize the dollars to his clients by getting the Dodgers to pony up a massive extension for Kershaw while getting Tanaka’s huge deal elsewhere? Shrug. In the the end, I make it that the presence of Close probably doesn’t matter (his job is to get the right deal for his client, regardless), but the selection of Close in the first place … it’s a possible indicator. I guess we’ll just keep our eyes on things.
- Incidentally, the Dodgers aren’t yet ready to publicly commit to being involved in the Tanaka process, for whatever that’s worth.
- Don’t expect to hear about the Cubs, or any other team, formally making their $20 million maximum bid for Tanaka. Mark Feinsand reports that’s not necessary – the team signing Tanaka simply has to be prepared to pay the money when the contract is signed. Instead, I’m guessing what we’ll hear is Tanaka making visits to various cities/teams over the course of the next month.