At the end of an exhausting process, Masahiro Tanaka elected to sign with the New York Yankees on a seven-year, $155 million deal (with an opt-out after four years, and a no-trade clause). The Cubs are believed to have been the runners up for Tanaka.
You can understand my surprise, then, to see Patrick Mooney and Gordon Wittenmyer reporting with confidence that the Cubs’ final offer to Tanaka was a mere six years and $120 million (with no opt-out, and, presumably, no no-trade clause). With multiple reports that the Yankees and Cubs, together with the Dodgers, were the finalists for Tanaka, and reports out of LA that the Dodgers were outbid by the Yankees and Cubs by “a decent amount,” it would seem that the Cubs really were the number two bidder for Tanaka, behind the Yankees. (Dave Kaplan has reported as much, as well.)
So, here’s where I’m having trouble: if the Cubs were the runner-up for Tanaka, but bid only six-years, $120 million (without an opt-out and without a no-trade clause) … why did the Yankees blow that offer away with an additional year, an additional $35 million, and additional (and very valuable) clauses?
Do the Yankees hate money?
Did Tanaka hate New York so much that they simply had to outspend the field by such a wide margin to get Tanaka to choke down his hatred for the Yankees and sign on?
See where I’m going with this? I’m really struggling to reconcile these things.
I believe that Mooney and Wittenmyer have sources that say the Cubs’ final (official) offer was six-years and $120 million, and I don’t necessarily doubt those sources. But unless the Yankees received the message that there was a team pushing them to up the offer to the range in which it landed – particularly when considering that Tanaka’s clear desire was to sign with the Yankees – they had no reason to climb as high as they did. Is is possible that the Cubs’ final offer was just $120 million, but they let agent Casey Close know that their ceiling was actually higher than that (if they really felt like Tanaka would agree)? That would square with reports from Dave Kaplan, Bruce Levine, and Jesse Rogers, among others, in advance of Tanaka’s signing, which implied (or outright said) that the Cubs were willing to go much higher than $120 million over six years.
That’s just about the only way to explain the Yankees’ over-the-top offer. Someone had to be pushing them. And if it wasn’t the Dodgers, and if the Dodgers and Cubs were the next two bidders … well, it had to be the Cubs. And six-years, $120 million from the Cubs doesn’t push the Yankees to a seven-year, $155 million deal (with an opt-out after four years, and a no-trade clause).
So, if I’m trying to wrap my head around why the Yankees did what they did, and if I’m trying to square the seemingly conflicting reports (without saying that anyone is flatly wrong – because what do I know?), the most reasonable conclusions are:
- The Cubs’ final offer for Tanaka was six years and $120 million. That was probably the second highest official offer that Tanaka received, and it is far lower than the Yankees’ deal or the rumored Cubs offers in the run-up to the decision. This is fairly disappointing. However …
- The Cubs likely let Tanaka’s agent know that they would be willing to come up from that offer if it meant they could get Tanaka, understanding all the while that they would probably have to blow the Yankees away to actually get Tanaka (something they were unwilling to do, given the final contract). Tanaka’s agent likely used this information to drive up the price on the Yankees. That’s why the Yankees’ final deal appears so gratuitous.
Of course, it’s possible that Tanaka’s agent simply played the Yankees, who are only now learning that they weren’t being pushed nearly as much as they thought. Perhaps the media reports that had the Cubs willing to go much higher were enough to do the trick. I’d like to think the Yankees would be savvier than that, but, again, what do I know?
I recognize there is a natural instinct in a Cubs fan to intellectually wrangle an explanation that makes the Cubs look better than a mere cheap team with no money to spend on top talent. But I don’t think I’m doing those kinds of mental summersaults this one. The above explanation, to me, is the most likely one for how everything has played out.
We may never know the whole story. But I’ve already written just about everything I wanted to say about Tanaka, anyway. And now I just added another 800 words. Grumble.