There is one premiere free agent left in baseball this winter, and the majority of baseball fans have never seen him pitch, though just as many want him on their teams.
While we know that Masahiro Tanaka will be in a Major League rotation next season, surprisingly it turns out that both Chicago teams are interested in his services. News of the Cubs being interested isn’t turning any heads, as its been speculated that they’d be a player for Tanaka since word first broke that he could be crossing the Pacific. The White Sox, on the other hand, had me doing a bit of a double-take.
I’ve loved everything the White Sox have done this offseason, starting with the signing of Jose Abreu, followed up by trades that brought young, cheap talent back in players like Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson. Since July Rick Hahn has done an excellent job of giving the White Sox farm system hope.
Still, as much as I admire Hahn’s work this offseason, I can’t help but feel like all this talk about Tanaka in the last week is more a ruse than anything. It’s just Hahn and the White Sox front office trying to appease the portion of the fan base who see him trading Addison Reed as a form of treason — the White Sox Facebook Twitter account following the Reed-Davidson trade was gold as no where on Earth is a closer overvalued more than on Facebook pages — against King Paul Konerko or something. Change scares people, you know.
And because those people exist, I see the Sox meeting with Tanaka and likely submitting a bid as being nothing more than giving themselves the chance to say “hey, we tried to get him, but so-and-so just outbid us.” Even the release the Sox sent out following Thursday’s meeting screamed that they were just kicking tires.
“The meeting was exploratory in nature,” Hahn said in the statement. “It was an opportunity for us to sit down with Masahiro and discuss how he potentially fits our vision for the Chicago White Sox for the next several seasons.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the White Sox would love to add Tanaka to the fold if the price was right, but they’re not going to get into a bidding war with teams like the Dodgers and Yankees. The Sox have money to spend — they always have more money to spend than they lead you to believe — but not as much as they’ll need to get Tanaka.
If Tanaka is going to be in Chicago next season, it will be with the Cubs. It just makes more sense for them right now. At some point in this seemingly never-ending rebuild that’s going on at Wrigley, the Cubs are going to make a splashy signing. And I don’t mean the Edwin Jackson deal last year. I mean a big ticket guy.
Well, guys like Robinson Cano and Shin Soo-Choo were certainly big ticket signings that could have helped the Cubs this season, but they’re also on the wrong side of 30, and I don’t believe it’s ever been in the Cubs plans to give those kind of players long-term deals. Not before Theo and Jed feel the team is ready to contend for the World Series. But Tanaka? That’s another story entirely.
Through this rebuild the Cubs have done a great job of stocking the farm system with promising position players, but at the moment the organization’s pitching depth doesn’t compare. Adding the 25-year old Tanaka to the Cubs starting rotation for years to come would be a move that not only makes baseball sense, but throws a bone to a fan base that’s getting more and more impatient. While prospects like Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora are a lot of fun to talk and dream about, seeing Tanaka on the mound every fifth day in Cubs pinstripes is something tangible.
It’s easier to have hope about the future when you can see the reason for hope.
So Tanaka to the Cubs becoming a reality just makes so much more sense, but like the White Sox, whether they can win the bidding war for him is another question entirely. While the White Sox will likely submit a bid for Tanaka that they know is going to be beat by somebody, the Cubs may put up the money they believe is enough to win his services only to see the Dodgers throw an ungodly amount of money at Tanaka and get him instead.
So I guess what I’m saying is that, no matter which side of town you watch your baseball on, or whether your intent is true or false, odds are you’ll be watching Masahiro Tanaka pitching for somebody else next season.
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