The offseason has been very quiet for the Chicago Cubs. They have made some nice under-the-radar signings for depth purposes (Jose Veras, Wesley Wright and George Kottaras), but the team has been completely quiet when it comes to the big named players.
With the Cubs seemingly not ready to compete, it really does not make sense for them to spend a bunch of money and commit long-term contracts to free-agent players. That is, expect for one, Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka has not officially been posted yet, but after he announced yesterday that he wishes to pitch in the big leagues next season, it seems very likely that his team will post him. The Cubs are weak in the young, impact pitching department, and at 25 years old, Tanaka fits that bill perfectly.
Tanaka may not have the raw stuff of Yu Darvish, but many consider him to be a No. 2 in a MLB rotation, some have even called Tanaka a potential ace. He has a fastball that sits in the low 90s, a nice slider and a great splitter that he relies on frequently. Tanaka has nice stuff, but he does not have “blow you away” stuff, like Darvish does. He relies much more on control and movement of his pitches, and he does so very effectively.
Last season, Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and led his team to a Japan Series Championship. He struck out 7.8 batters per nine innings, gave up a microscopic 0.3 HR per nine and walked only 1.4 per nine. Tanaka does an incredible job of keeping the ball down and over the strike zone. If he can keep this up, I see no reason why he will not have nice success at the big league level.
I strongly believe that President Theo Epstein and the rest of the Cubs’ front office has been counting on Tanaka as their big prize all offseason. They were reportedly the second highest bidding team on both Darvish, who went to the Texas Rangers, and Hyun-jin Ryu, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs were so close on both players, who would look fantastic in their rotation right now. They obviously think that spending internationally makes sense. I think they see Tanaka as their next (and possibly last for a long while) opportunity to land a young, impact talent that can be acquired for only money. I think the Cubs will not hold anything back on Tanaka, and will be willing to spend as much, if not more than any other team. Will that be enough? It is hard to say.