This is the first Cubs Convention I can remember in a long time that birthed absolutely no news about the coming season. We got minor renovation updates and Laura Ricketts’ statement that Clark the Cub “is a big part of what we’re trying to do with the renovations,” whatever that means, but, from a personnel standpoint, there was just . . nothing.
Luckily, the rumors about where Masahiro Tanaka could land continue to swirl, and several reports have the Cubs in the lead. No, I’m not sure I believe it, either. Last night, I got the chance to ask a source, who earlier said he would “be surprised” if the Cubs didn’t land Tanaka, if he wanted to back off his statement. His reponse? “No way.”
And if this story couldn’t get any weirder (the LAD and NYY fans on Twitter cannot even wrap their heads around the possibility that a player would choose a flyover state over one of their glorious golden cities), reports this morning on The Score were that the Cubs and the White Sox were in first and second place in the Tanaka derby, respectively. And let me tell you, if the Cubs outbid the Dodgers and Yankees, only to lose out to the White Sox, there will be hell to pay on the North Side. Do you see this? This is me turning my hat around backward, in case things get real.
All that said, take it away, Bruce Levine:
(CBS) — According to MLB sources, the Chicago Cubs will be one of the finalists this week in the Masahiro Tanaka signing sweepstakes. The bidding will end on Thursday when the pitcher’s posting period expires.
A source told me on Saturday that the Cubs appeal to the Tanaka negotiating group, listed a chance to be the ace of the team and grow with the top rated young players that are developing in the organization.
“They have the ability to bid as much and in this case more than the Dodgers or Yankees,” said the baseball official. “They will be getting billions of dollars in their future local TV deal that they can use to sign this player. When their stadium project is completed they will have millions more to help entice the best talent to play in Chicago”
Tanaka is known to want a city to play in where the Japanese population and its culture is vibrant and readily accessible for him and his wife. The dollars are of course a deciding factor in the 25-year-old pitcher’s final decision. Bidding teams learned early in the process that the price of poker would begin at six years and $100 million. Many have speculated that Tanaka could receive as much as $150 million from the winning bidder. Those figures however have been driven by media speculation more so than actual knowledge of the contract talks.
Hmmmm. Does Chicago have a vibrant, readily accessible Japanese population? I have no idea. I know we have a lot of great Japanese restaurants, and a quick Google search shows a whole bunch of Japanese community centers in (wait for it . . . . ) Lakeview!
Aside from Chicago’s possibly vibrant and readily accessible Japanese population, there are a few other reasons the Cubs may have managed to catch Tanaka’s eye. First off, it’s been hinted at all over the internet that the Cubs’ bid for Tanaka was significantly larger than the other teams’, though all the numbers we’ve seen at this point are pure speculation. The latest guess I’ve seen is 6-8 years at $25M per, but we really won’t have any idea until Tanaka makes his choice early this week.
Secondly, the Cubs allow Tanaka the chance to be a big fish in a big pond. In Chicago, he shoots right to the top of the rotation and gets a chance to be the ace of the team. He isn’t a number two behind Clayton Kershaw or a CC Sabathia. When the Cubs met with Tanaka last week, the reportedly pitched to him a team built to contend well into the future, and one that he would have the chance to lead into the history books.
The fact that the Cubs may not be ready to win in 2014 might actually be a plus to Tanaka. Unless something dramatic happens in Spring Training (all the kids are ready to play at once?), 2014 is going to be another ”wait for the kids to be ready year,” and would give Tanaka a chance to get a year in MLB under his belt with no real pressure to win. When a player is making a transition to a new league, especially with the kind of laser spotlight Tanaka has been under, that can be a very attractive proposition.
National media seems to think Tanaka will make his decision by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, in order to get any required physicals out of the way before the Friday deadline. Meanwhile, Chicago watches . . . and waits.