Forget Robinson Cano who will command way too much money for a player his age. Do not expect them to pay the price it will take to bring in oft-injured outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. I think the top offseason target for the Chicago Cubs should, and will be, 24-year-old Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka, who turns 25 in November, is expected to make the jump to MLB next season. Tanaka is the most talented player currently in Japan and many scouts think that he has the upside of a No. 2 starting pitcher and can immediately pitch at the Major League level. With the lack of starting pitching options expected to be on the market, I think the Cubs would be foolish not to make a strong big for Tanaka.
Playing for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Pacific League, Tanaka has a 20-0 record with a very impressive 1.24 ERA. He has 155 strikeouts and only 27 walks in 181 innings pitched. Tanaka has simply been dominant and would be a nice addition to any Major League team.
Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 205 pounds, Tanaka has a fastball that has reached 96 MPH, but usually sits in the low 90s. His best pitch is a downward moving splitter that scouts have been raving about. He also has a nice mid 80s slider and he mixes in a curveball at times as well.
As great as Tanaka is, he does not have the pure nasty stuff like Yu Darvish does. Do not get me wrong, he has good stuff, but he uses elite control and the ability to change speeds to get batters out. Because of this, you would imagine that Tanaka would not cost as much as Darvish did when he was scooped up by the Texas Rangers. Between the posting fee and the six-year, $60 million contract, the Rangers paid a total of $112 million to sign Darvish.
The Cubs reportedly came in second in the bidding for Darvish, and I see no reason why they will not be big-time contenders for Tanaka. The Cubs now have one of the best Minor League systems in all of baseball. Because of this, they should be competitive within the next couple of seasons. One thing that they currently lack is young, talented starting pitching. Tanaka would certainly fit that description. I think the Cubs need to make Tanaka the top focus of the offseason and put in a very strong bid when he becomes available.
You have to bring in pitching eventually, and Tanaka would be a nice piece to have when the Cubs are ready to compete.