The big news coming out of baseball this week was the fact that Masahiro Tanaka will be posted by his club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, opening Major League Baseball teams up to sign him. The bidding begins on December 26th, with the negotiating window lasting until January 24th, at which point Tanaka will know where he will make his Major League debut.
Smart money has the Chicago Cubs as the favorite to sign him, as there have been numerous reports from around baseball stating that the Cubs will not be outbid for his services. Given the fact that the Cubs have remained quiet on the free agent and trade markets this winter, speculation has been that they were determined to focus their resources on Tanaka. They’re now going to get the opportunity to do so.
While the Cubs will have some stiff competition, most notably the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, this is a team that needs the Japanese hurler more than any other team, from a competition standpoint. Their current rotation isn’t bad, but does come with questions and lacks a true ace. Signing a player like Tanaka would help their rotation to quietly become one of the best in baseball, assuming Edwin Jackson bounces back, while getting that top arm at the front of their rotation.
One of the main arguments from those that say the Cubs should trade for David Price is the fact that a true ace can speed up a team’s timetable to compete. This is an argument that can also be made with Tanaka. He’s only 25, brings a low-90s fastball and some nasty breaking stuff to the mix. He’s a building block for a franchise that needs one in their pitching staff. He’d give them a top rotation, and with an improved bullpen, the Cubs could make some noise sooner than expected.
Of course, convincing Tanaka won’t be easy unless it’s purely about the money. He’s believed to want to play on the West Coast (Dodgers) and one would imagine that a team’s ability to contend would also enter the mix for his consideration (also Dodgers). With several teams in on him, beyond just the three mentioned here, reigning him in won’t be an easy task for the Cubs. Should they pull it off, though, they’d get the building block in their starting staff that they covet, and speed up their timetable to compete, all while not having to surrender talent like they would in a David Price deal.
The Cubs need to be all over Masahiro Tanaka in the next month, and you already know they will. Whether they’ll be able to pull it off, however, remains to be seen.