We’re within a few days of the window to negotiate with and sign star Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to a contract closing, meaning he’ll very likely be with a big league club by the end of the week. Early word was that he wanted a deal in place at least a couple days before the deadline in order to take care of any physicals and make sure the process did not extend beyond the deadline.
We know of the teams that are in on Tanaka. It can be essentially narrowed down to a final five: New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, and Arizona Diamondbacks. These are the teams we have heard mentioned most often in connected with Tanaka, though it remains to be seen how much of a chance the latter two clubs actually have at landing him.
In fact, we don’t know how heavy the Dodgers are in this race either. They obviously have the money, and they have the West Coast advantage, but to what extent they’re actually in the mix is something that remains a mystery. Which means that it’s somewhat likely that the final two teams in this race could very well be the Cubs and the Yankees. An easy choice, no? Not so fast.
Both teams are willing to throw as much money at Tanaka as he pleases. The Yankees always have the dough to spend and the Cubs have been reported to be well above everyone else in the bidding war to this point. They appear to have the funds necessary to reign him in. And while signing with a Yankees team that will be a contender for the couple of years makes sense, the Cubs make a ton of sense for someone in Tanaka’s position.
It’s rumored that he is extremely interested in the challenge and relishes an opportunity to be “the guy”. If Tanaka were to sign with the Cubs, he’d immediately slot in at the top of their rotation, and be a young guy to fit in with the rest of their young core. While the Yankees will be slipping and lack the farm system to continue to remain at the top of the American League East over the course of the next several years, the Cubs will be a team on the rise.
It’s unknown if their current state has any bearing on whether or not Tanaka will be willing to sign with the Cubs. The Yankees present a massive market and a contending club, in addition to the fact that they’ll pay him any amount of money he pleases. That’ll be tough to pass up. But it’s hard to ignore the Cubs as a spot where he can become a superstar and potentially a key piece of a championship team within the next several years.