Obsessive Tanaka Watch: Everything’s Coming Up Mariners

masahiro tanakaIt’s been a quiet week on the Masahiro Tanaka front, at least in terms of hard news. With the holidays, and the inevitable post-posting lull, I suppose that’s no surprise.

And then there was a considerable uptick today, generally within a couple hours of each other, with all of it pointing in one direction: Seattle.

First, there’s Ben Badler, who today ranks the possible landing spots for Tanaka – the Cubs come in as one of the “heavyweights,” behind the Dodgers and Yankees (naturally) – and reports that “based on conversations with industry officials, Seattle’s resources and the makeup of the team, they are a strong fit.” That’s why Badler presently ranks the Mariners as the top contender to sign Tanaka.

Then there’s Jayson Stark, who reports that other interested teams all say that the team to watch out for is the Mariners, who “have one big move left.” Once again, it makes sense that the Mariners would be in heavy pursuit, given the Robinson Cano move (and the Felix Hernandez extension, and the four years of control they’ve got on Hisashi Iwakuma). There’s a window opening for them if they make the right additional moves. Tanaka is a strong start.

And, finally, there’s Dan Szymborski writing for ESPN, who suggests there’s no team that needs Tanaka more than the Mariners. (The Cubs are noted in there, but mostly as a throwaway.) As discussed, I don’t know that anyone could argue otherwise, given the impending window.

Earlier in the offseason, there were indications that the Mariners were tapped out financially, which was hard to accept, given that they’d just splurged in the extreme on Cano, but added nothing else of consequence to justify such an expenditure. To compete in the NL West during Cano’s most productive years, the Mariners needed more. Tanaka is a perfect fit, if they’ve got the money.

So … do they?

Well, if the persistent whispers about a possible future sale of the team are true, then there’s probably as much money available as necessary to turn the team into a contender. The payoff in a sale is too great to go cheap in the run-up. Further, the folks Badler and Stark have been speaking with certainly get the sense that there’s plenty of money there for the Mariners to make the move.

Does this make the Mariners the favorite? The truth is, they felt like a favorite the day they signed Cano. They’d fallen off only because of those financial rumors coupled with frequent reports that the Yankees didn’t care about staying under $189 million if it meant getting Tanaka.

You’d have to think the Yankees and Mariners are now 1 and 1(a) in the pursuit. The Cubs are reportedly so interested that they “won’t be outbid,” but it’s probably going to cost a whole, whole lot to not be outbid if the Mariners, joining the Yankees, are jonesing as hard as these reports indicate.

That said, don’t despair yet if you’ve got your heart set on Tanaka. He’s got until January 24 to sign, and it’s still very, very early.

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

113 responses to “Obsessive Tanaka Watch: Everything’s Coming Up Mariners”

  1. Spoda17

    Just because the Mariners [need] him the [most]; does not mean they will actually get him… but I feel the same about the Cubs… just because the Cubs [will] outbid everyone, does not mean they will sign him…

    1. Chiburgh

      I haven’t seen the numbers. What are the expected years and dollars the Cubs need to offer in order to get Tanaka? How does it vary from other clubs?

  2. V23

    Without Tanaka or a few other moves, this offseason should go down as the WORST offseason in a long long time for the Cubs.

    It will be actually pretty hard to watch the Cubs until Baez, Bryant, or Olt come up.

    We trust in Theo, but this offseason is extremely hard to understand right now. In October, I wrote on here that the strive for the offseason would be to build a couple pieces to get to .500 then position to move up from there. Right now, this team is WORSE than last year.

    1. TommyK

      Not only is the team worse than last year, if Rizzo and Castro don’t improve markedly, it could be the worst offensive team the Cubs have had in decades. I have no idea how this team plans to score runs. I think the organization underestimates the costs of putting very bad teams on the field. There is real value in going. 500 as opposed to losing 95 games, and I don’t think they get that.

      1. cub-hub

        The Cubs will be fine. I think Rizzo and Castro will both take huge steps forward. Olt will provide decent value at 3B. Barney is not a great hitter, but he is better than he was last year. Castillo will continue to get better. I think Lake will surprise a little. Im jot saying he is going to be great, but don’t be surprised if he provides decent value. Sweeney and Schierholtz should provide average value, and if Bitters gets a chance, I think he can be pretty good with the bat. In other words, the Cubs have the potential to surprise. Im not nearly as worried as most people.

        1. hawkinright

          Literally all your thought on next years team are positive. Do you really think all those things will happen or are you just hoping?

          1. cub-hub

            Those are the things I think will happen.

        2. go cubs go

          Agreed. I like Sweeney and Schierholtz. My hope is Olt can win 3B so we can push Valbuena to 2B and put Barney as an AMAZING defensive late-inning replacement (he’s not valueless IMO). We’re not a favorite in any universe, but I don’t think it’s absurd to think we might get a little lucky. We’re not devoid of potential.

          1. Voice of Reason

            >>I like Sweeney and Schierholtz. My hope is Olt can win 3B so we can push Valbuena to 2B.<>We’re not devoid of potential.<<

            Other than Olt, there is no future potential! The rest are all bench guys in the bigs.

            Sweeney is a fourth or fifth outfielder, yet he will get 500 ab's for the Cubs in 2014. Schierholtz is a .250 hitter. Olt didn't prove he has overcome his eye troubles and that he can hit MINOR league pitching, yet you are hoping he can win the 3B job. Valbuena is a utility infielder at best!

        3. arta

          what has Vitters proven? he’d have to be a great hitter to stick as a bench player. untill proven otherwise Rizzo is a young Pena don’t get me wrong. i hope for the best, i hope ur right.

          1. cub-hub

            Huh. If he was a great hitter, he wouldn’t be a bench player, 1st of all. Vitters has hit at every level but his short MLB stint, and his numbers translate well to the Bigs. He won’t be a star, but he should be a solid bat no matter where he plays. Even Pena was a valuable bat in his time. I never said Rizzo was a star, and as disappointing as his season was last year (if it even was), he can’t have that kind of back luck 2 years in a row.

            1. arta

              i meant his best position if he were to hit would be DH. his D is bad no matter where he plays. JMO.

        4. Voice of Reason

          Cubhub wrote: “the cubs will be fine”.

          If losing 95+ games again is fine then, yes, the cubs will be fine.

          1. cub-hub

            Well aren’t you smart?

        5. Voice of Reason

          Cubhub:

          Describe decent value for Olt . Keep in mind that he can’t see and in double and triple a stints in 2013 he hit .174 in 432 at bats.

          Are you thinking decent value in the minors? Just breaking camp with the team will be huge. And, believe me, he will be given every chance to make the team.

          By chance do you do LASIK surgery?

          1. cub-hub

            If Olt can go .250/.310 with 20 HR, that would be decent value at third. I could see Olt putting up a 7 something OPS. Not a star, just decent value. Now if his eye problem and concussion problems are fixed, he could blow that away.

            1. hansman

              If olt hits .250 he is going to do much better than a .310 OBP

              1. cub-hub

                I agree. I was just throwing out what would be modestly valuable.

            2. Voice of Reason

              Cubhub,

              You’re saying olt will hit .250/.310 with 20hr with continued vision problems? Do you really believe that??????

  3. mrcub1958

    Hard to seeing him come to the US, as the Japanese #1, and be a 3 on the Seattle staff. Also pitch behind his former teammate. Sounds like something to overcome in any culture.

    1. Norm

      Rotation #’s are meaningless.

      1. CubFan Paul

        Not to a guy whose requested #1 for his jersey.

    2. 1060Ivy

      Cash has a way of soothing over most hard feelings and/or cultural issues

  4. NorthSideIrish

    I read in the Bleacher Nation comments section that Tanaka is definitely not signing with the Cubs and is definitely signing with the Yankees…or the Dodgers…or the Mariners…but definitely not the Cubs.

    1. ClevelandCubsFan

      Don’t believe everything you read in the comments.

      1. DarthHater

        What? WHAT???

  5. MaxM1908

    I’m actually wondering if he is going to be worth the cost. If it becomes a financial arms race, they’ll blow past his actual or even perceived value, giving rise to a much greater opportunity for a bust. I’m not saying he won’t be good over the life of a contract, but I think the price tag will now make it an albatross.

  6. Sacko

    The won’t be outbid is starting to sound like a stubborn focus to sign this guy because of what they consider a FA fit for this team. That’s even to assume he lives up to his potential and the expectations by the FO and doesn’t get hurt. That kind of money could land 3 FA pitchers.

    1. TK

      Not 3 REALLY GOOD free agents that are only 25 y/o! There IS a difference between an upper level SP that is 25 vs a somewhat lesser SP who is 31 y/o. Turn off the vacuum . . . the Cubs are trying to get AWAY from spending big $$$$ to fill the roster with 30-something y/o’s on the down sides of their careers. The key to the willingness to spend for Tanaka is his age, with respect to talent. He is not yet in his physical prime. Those 3 FA’s you suggest will either be past their prime, not very good, or equally expensive.

  7. V23

    Brett- My reference of “worst” includes where the team started.
    The rotation and lineup is worse this year than it was going into last year. The pen may be equal or better now.

    With your bullet link, I guess I hope that you’re right because otherwise I’m baffled about this offseason.

    While, I think Bryant & Baez will be stars, the truth is, you never know about prospects. I hope Theo isn’t banking on “farm system” only strategy, because this may take a decade to win something.

    1. DocPeterWimsey

      The offseason shouldn’t be that baffling. It’s supply and demand: and the things that are the Cubs demands (good hitting 3B, 2B and CF & good SP) are in really short supply this off-season. That’s part of why there is such a feeding frenzy over Tanaka.

      1. BRIAN

        Not to mention the offseason isn’t close to being over. I mean it’s not like we break camp tomorrow or anything.

    2. Danny Ballgame

      The rotation and lineup are worse because all of the older assets were traded away during last season, not because of the lack of moves this offseason.

    3. TK

      Your “worst” seems to refer to IMMEDIATE gratification. We’re REBUILDING. Not ready to compete in 2014. For that reason, the RESTRAINT, the FO has exercised makes this off-season, even in lieu of any seemingly obvious significant acquisitions, a very good one. They have resisted the urge to scrap the plan and cheat to make 2014 “just a weeee bit better.” In the long run, this will actually end up to be one of the BEST off-seasons, in regards to setting the team up for success in 2015 and beyond.

  8. Ill see you at Sluggers.

    For someone who has less apparent upside than Yu Darvish, I’m not too sure that I’d want the Cubs committing so much money to someone with that many question marks. If we’re going to give someone a TOR salary I would prefer to see it given to someone like Max Scherzer as an example. Asian pitchers have a weird history of flaming out after their first 2 years in the USA too, keep that in mind. Not all pitchers are the same, but it feels like it takes American ballplayers a couple seasons to adjust to their style. Dice-K is the most recent example I can think of. It could also be due to a much longer, grueling season over here as opposed to in Japan.

    1. cub-hub

      I agree about the first part. I feel he is worth 17 mil a year, max, so that 20 mil is an acceptable over pay. Anything over 20 mil, I hope the Cubs walk and walk fast.

  9. Spoda17

    I take what they mean by that is that the FO is all in and won’t be on the cheap. But just knowing the history of this FO so far, they won’t get stupid. Theo won’t have another Dice K on his resume…

  10. Jon

    Those poor Mariners! They are the laughing stock of baseball!

    1. TimBeam

      Nah, I still the Marlins as that

    2. Patrick W.

      I think the Mariners are in better shape than you suggest.

      Right now they look like an 81 win team to me. If a few things break their way, they easily could sneak into the playoffs.

      Add Tanaka into that mix and they look like a contender for their division. Felix, Iwakuma, Tanaka, Walker, Ramirez, James Paxton are 6 legit starters.

      They added Cano, LoMo and Hart and have solid players at 3B and Catcher.

      Their “ifs” are fewer than a lot of teams. If Smoak turns it around and if Ackley can hit they’re in very good shape even before adding Tanaka. I like the Mariners this year.

  11. MoeC

    If they dont sign Tanaka look for the shark to be traded for sure cuz I think Epstein will figure this will be a lost season and will hope to work on 2015. I really hope we get Tanaka. The Cubs need to make it happen no matter what

    1. cubmig

      One high-$$$-signed layer does not a winning team make. Also lets skip any talk about “a [2014] lost season”. The season hasn’t even started; plus no one knows what will happen till the season is underway…..Let’s at least give hope a few months’ life before planning its funeral.

  12. DarthHater

    If two or more teams all refuse to be outbid, does that mean Tanaka will get an infinite contract? :-D

    1. jh03

      But… who wins then?…. Would he pitch for both teams?!

      1. DarthHater

        I guess the winner would be whoever got in the last bid before the 30 days expired and the final amount would be the amount of that last bid.

        Still, if one was really determined not to be outbid, then one could pull a reverse-Andre-Dawson and give Tanaka a blank contract on which he could fill in any amount. That way you are guaranteed a shot to out-bid even the highest last minute offer. Of course, there would be some risk of bankruptcy with this approach…

        1. jh03

          I can just imagine:

          “We’ll give you infinity dollars!”

          “Okay, we’ll give you infinity plus one!”

          ::Waits until 11:59.59::

          “WE’LL GIVE YOU INFINITY PLUS TWO”

          1. DarthHater

            I’m not good enough at calculus to deal with this. We need Doc.

            1. jh03

              Something about limits and derivatives.. maybe throw in an anti-derivative. Approaches infinity… that’s my calculus word bank.

  13. Ballgame17

    This is becoming a more strenuous situation. At what point should the Cubs say “Tanaka will cost too much”? $20+ mil/year for a guy who is unproven? I really hope the Cubs sign him, but not to where it’ll cost us numerous impact FA in the future…this is the annual salary for some pitchers +/- 20 mil…

    Greinke – 21mil/year
    Cain – 20mil/year
    Felix Hernandez – 20mil/year
    Hamels – 20mil/year….you get the point

    **Is Tanaka really worth this range in annual salary?? Such an important decision….

    1. terencemann

      It might be the case that in the current pitching market a very good #3 pitcher costs about $20 MM. Greinke was a very good “#2″ pitcher and he cost >20 MM which was reserved only for ace-caliber pitchers previously.

    2. baldtaxguy

      It seems these numbers are the ceiling, or near to it. Maybe the “will not be outbid” becomes relative to the fact that there likely will not be large margins of difference in the dollars each team offers. Will $2-$5m over the total contract matter? Maybe not.

  14. VittersStartingLF

    If bidding gets too high, I hope the Cubs bow out. Too much uncertainty. Overuse in Japan, never pitched in MLB. May be a bust. Save money for big list of FA pitchers next year

  15. CubFanBob

    My thoughts lately

    - His agent is on vacation with his family till next Monday ? You are seeing other agents working the holiday weeks but not Tanaka’s. So come Monday 18 days or so are left to finalize a contract including the physical.

    - I feel max contract & preferred years will trump location, team, and rotation position.

    - Pray he doesnt show up when the high temp here is -18 heh

  16. Jon

    I pass on Tanaka around north of 22 million. I think Homer Bailey becomes a FA and I’d love to go after him as well.

    1. When The Musics Over

      I think I’d rather have Homer Bailey over Tanaka all things considered, and that includes the loss of a second round pick and the 2.5 year age difference. I could probably be convinced either way.

      1. Danny Ballgame

        Agree on all points

  17. mrcub1958

    Tanaka is a huge checkpoint in the plan. We need to sign him, then Jeff S for many reasons. The dollars everyone is stewing over are 2014 and prices will go up. We have the leverage to go north of $25m in the first few years of the contract and stay around five years to allow him back into the FA market at age 30 for one more big contract. That’s what we can do to play with the Yankees, Mariners and the like.

    We, and the rest of our competitors, thinks he’s the real deal so arguing about whether or not he will be isn’t relevant.

    We get him and the plan accelerates. Those who heard and talked to Theo at the STH event might agree.

  18. The Instructor

    Just curious. Any examples of teams that have lost 250 plus games over the course of three years (which looks like the Cubs are about to pull off) then competing for a title the following year?

    I think it would be nice to see the cubs begin to show some improvement say to .500 or so before we can start to expect them to compete for the division. If we punt on 2014 and lose another 90 games are we really supposed to believe 2015 we are all of a sudden going to win 90 games?

    1. When The Musics Over

      If the Cubs lose 95 games in 2014, that will create an average of about 95 losses/year over the past 5 years. That is absolute nutso for a major market team.

      2014 – 95*
      2013 – 96
      2012 – 101
      2011 – 91
      2010 – 87

      *Projected (at least by me)

      1. DarthHater

        In 8 seasons from 1925 through 1932, the Red Sox averaged over 101 losses per 154-game season. It took them another 80 years to complete the rebuild, but they are now a model franchise. :-D

        1. DarthHater

          Oops. It only took them another 74 years. My bad. :-P

          1. DarthHater

            Crap. 72 years. The new year seems to have broken my skull thinking thingy.

            1. When The Musics Over

              It’s ok, pretty much everything outside of the minor leagues and some out-of-state/out-of-country facilities is broken with the Cubs at the current moment.

      2. V23

        Thank you for that. Ugh. It’s time to hold Rickets/Theo accountable.

        1. The Instructor

          No one was more excited to see A real owner who genuinely claimed to be a fan and I was excited to see him hire maybe the best front office in baseball. I think they have done a tremendous job building the minors, which was needed. However, I don’t see the need in keeping the big league team so uncompetitive. I’m glad they are investing in Wrigley and the city.

          If they continue to allow the big league team to lose at a record pace I don’t see a quick turnaround in the future. I think the fan base is going to grow impatient.

  19. woody

    I imagine that Seattle has a very large area populated by Japanese much like China town in many cities. Tanaka is going to think about his wife and look for someplace where they don”t get slammed by culture shock. Personally after the obsene contract they gave to Cano, how can anybody believe that they won’t do the same with Tanaka. I would rather see the cubs resign Samardzija and let the chips fall where they may this season. We are talking about paying crazy money to Tanaka while we balk at upping the ante and paying Shark. Maybe we sign Jimenez?

    1. Patrick W.

      Seattle does not actually have such a place. There is an “International District” which has some Asian shops, but for the most part it’s a very integrated city (with the exception of African Americans, who can’t catch a break!).

      That’s probably even more enticing. When you arrive at the SeaTac airport, all of the instructions you see and hear are in English and Japanese.

  20. jmc

    again why do we care what the cubs spend? just put an interesting team the field no?

    1. DarthHater

      Watching the Cubs take a run at the ’62 Mets would be interesting, in some respects, but I’d just as soon do without it.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        Even the recent Astros teams have not been able to make a run at the ’62 Mets: and the Cubs are a much better team than that.

        1. DarthHater

          But it would be interesting, if it happened. Of course, a zombie apocalypse would also be interesting.

    2. V23

      Because if you don’t spend, you end up with scrap-heap pickups, no close, a brutal rotation, a bad lineup and a weak bench.

      I couldn’t care less about interesting, I care about winning and future winning.

  21. Fastball

    I think the Cubs stick around on Tanaka till the end. I have no belief that we will sign him. Theo needs something to do as he hasn’t been involved on any top players. This has to be killing him inside. When he was at Boston he was able to sign anybody he really wanted. I think he needs to drive the price up on Tanaka to a level that exceeds $20MM and then back out. I don’t want the guy that bad. I think he needs to go sign another Maholm and Feldman combo another flip this year. But the flips need to be for ML players who will improve this team at the top not at the bottom. I don’t know how he does that but that’s his job to figure out. I don’t mind being cellar dwellars if we are planning on having some of our top prospects get promoted before July. 3 months of interesting TV is better than 6 months of nothing at all.

  22. twinkletoez

    Hypothetically lets say Seattle does land Tanaka. Would that make them more or less likely to purse jeff samardzija?

    1. cub-hub

      I would think more likely. Shark is cheap over the next 2 years, and could valuable a team like Seattle who just splurged on two big contracts and still need more to compete. The question would be if landing Tanaka will make them more likely to trade Walker.

  23. Cubsin

    One concern Jed and Theo have almost certainly addressed but I haven’t seen discussed here is that our 40-man roster is full. If we sign Tanaka or another free agent pitcher, somebody needs to be waived. By mid-season, we might be calling up Baez, Bryant and Hendricks, and would need to clear three more spaces (unless we have enough guys on the 60-day DL).

    1. cub-hub

      I just went down the list and identified at least 6 names that are valuable but if need be, they can be released. No worries.

  24. Fastball

    Our 40 man roster isn’t made up of very many great players. You could pick 7 – 10 that can go in a heart beat. That’s why we are so bad. He won’t have any trouble cutting enough players to make room for call ups.

  25. Fastball

    I just looked at the miserable list of available FA’s. Maybe we should try to bring in Ervin Santana, Garza or Maholm. Each is 30 or 31 and we an easily flip Maholm again and he would cost much at all. We could get Santana or Garza for a lot less money than Tanaka. You can sell Garza again for that matter. You get him on a decent deal for 3 years and flip him as he won’t be a rental. As far as position players go Grady Sizemore might be a good veteran to have around for a year. Nate McClouth shows still unsigned. Thought he signed somewhere. He would be a good asset to have for flipping. All these guys are 30 – 31 so they aren’t terribly old.

    1. When The Musics Over

      Not all baseball players can be traded as easily baseball cards. Assuming the money is fairly even, many athletes like to have some situational security (eg, they don’t want to be shipped off to different cities all the time).

  26. Ballgame17

    I’d be open to bringing back Garza but do you think he really wants to sign a deal only to hear the same trade rumors (most likely) come July? It’d have to be a lot more intriguing then his other offers to consider it…

  27. Serious Cubs Fan

    Tanaka or bust for the cubs. The cubs better not get out bid. If tanaka doesn’t want to be a cub the team won’t be competitive in the next 2 years, that’s fine. But if the reason is money then I take serious issue with ricketts.

  28. woody

    Garza doesn’t cost us a draft pick for some reason. That gives him and edge over the other FO’s. But I seriously doubt he signs with the cubs.

  29. bobdawg78

    If we don’t land Tanaka, I would like to see Garza signed for 5/75 tops. hopefully giving him 5 years, allows his average to slide sown to 15 million a season. Garza could very easily be a part of what we need to turn this around. Having a rotation of Shark/Garza/Wood/Jackson/Arrieta is pretty solid to me. Rusin and Villanueva could serve as long relievers/spot starters if an injury occurs, or if Arrieta struggles.

  30. bobdawg78

    Then going on your GUT Brett, what do you see the Cubs doing as far as pitching goes before ST? Also, who do you think gets moved before ST, if anyone?

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