Throughout most of this process, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers have been the clear favorites to land 25-year-old Japanese RHP Masahiro Tanaka. Now, with his deadline to sign less than a week away, many respected baseball people are now saying that the Chicago Cubs are legitimate contenders for Tanaka — maybe even the favorites.
We have known all along that the Cubs were very interested in Tanaka. The question was whether they could convince him to come to a team in the middle of a rebuild. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have the Cubs on the right track with an incredible amount of minor league talent, but the team is still at least a year away from being legitimate contenders.
Would Tanaka really come to Chicago when he could go to the Yankees or Dodgers and contend for a World Series from the start? A week ago, that seemed unlikely. Now, maybe not so much.
Late last week, baseball writers on Twitter started mentioning the Cubs as a serious contenders to land Tanaka. Jason Stark from ESPN and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports are two of the most plugged in baseball reporters that there is. Both of them tweeted late last week that they were told the Cubs were a team to look out for because they were pushing hard for Tanaka.
I have thought for some time now that the Cubs would not be outbid on Tanaka. They have spent almost no money this offseason, and I strongly believe that they are saving all of their allotted money towards landing Tanaka. Convincing him to come will not be easy, but the team is willing to spend the necessary money to land him.
Throughout Saturday, Bruce Levine, who is a MLB writer who specializes in the Chicago area, tweeted about the Cubs and Tanaka. He said that they had made a strong offer for him, and that one source even told him they are the favorites. It is hard to say how serious to take these rumors, but Levine is a veteran baseball media member who without a doubt has strong sources. Him saying things like this definitely leads me to believe that the Cubs are legitimate players in this race to land Tanaka.
Tanaka is exactly what the Cubs are looking for. With Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro at the major league level and Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora in the minors, the Cubs have tons of elite talent in their young position players. While they do have some nice arms, the pitching is severely lagging behind. Adding a 25-year-old pitcher that many scouts believe is a no. 2 in MLB would be a perfect signing for the Cubs.
With so many big-spending organizations involved, Tanaka will surely be very expensive. I have seen some rumors mentioning the Cubs’ current offer being at $160 million with a $20 million posting fee going to Tanaka’s Japanese team on top of it. $180 million would be a huge and risky investment in a player that has never pitched at the major league level. That being said, with everybody wanting a 25-year-old potential ace, that is what it will take.
With money probably being fairly equal, the Cubs must be able to sell Tanaka on the future of the organization. Apparently, the 25-year-old pitcher loves a challenge and wants to be the man. Maybe leading the Cubs staff into the future is just what he is looking for? Who knows whether they are the favorites or not, but I strongly believe that the Cubs are serious contenders to land Tanaka.
The deadline to sign Tanaka is this coming Friday, January 24. This week will be wild as teams look to get their best offers in and make final pitches to Tanaka. Rumors will surely be flying at a crazy pace. They may not land him, but one thing is for sure: the Cubs are all-in on Tanaka and are serious contenders.