I have not been confident that Masahiro Tanaka will wind up in Chicago, either with the Cubs or White Sox, but I have to admit it’s getting harder to just dismiss the notion outright. It’s not that I suddenly believe it’s likely, but every day I’m hearing more and more about how both the Cubs and Sox are still to be taken seriously in all of this.
The difference now, however, is that the local interest has been covered in large part by local media. While both teams are mentioned as candidates by national media, they’re usually just mentioned as having met with Tanaka, but then the Yankees and Dodgers are thrown out as the likely destinations. Which I still believe to be the case, but then there was this from Jon Heyman on Friday.
Both Chicago teams are starting to be viewed at least by their competitors as serious players for star Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, though the deep-pocketed Dodgers and Yankees, as well as others, remain seriously interested and cannot be counted out in what promises to be a spirited derby for the international star.
Two competing executives went so far as to suggest the Cubs seem confident and one said he’d heard of a belief Tanaka was “theirs to lose,” though Cubs people aren’t saying anything of the sort. Cubs president Theo Epstein declined to address the rumors when contacted by CBSSports.com, chalking them up to Twitter speculation by folks not in the know.
The White Sox have made clear their intention to add youth to their roster, and Tanaka’s age (25) is a big plus for them in a winter where they added several under-30 positions pieces, including Jose Daniel Abreu, Adam Eaton and others. White Sox GM Rich Hahn declined comment, as he promised to do in his original statement affirming the LA meeting.
See that part I bolded? That’s somewhat interesting, isn’t it? There are all sorts of reasons for executives to say things about their interest in free agents, or about the possible interest of other teams. It’s all part of negotiations, but I’m not sure what possible negotiating tactic there is behind an anonymous executive to say that Tanaka is the Cubs “to lose.”
So maybe the Cubs are a bit more serious about all of this, which wouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
Heyman mentions that the Sox are serious contenders for Tanaka, but then provides no new information on their supposed pursuit. We know they have interest. We know they met with Tanaka. We also know that interest and the money to sign Tanaka are two different things. Which is why I still feel that, of all the teams truly interested in Tanaka, the Sox are the biggest longshot.
As I’ve said before, however, I do believe signing Tanaka makes a lot of sense for the Cubs not only from the baseball perspective, but from the fan’s perspective as well. Tanaka is a part of the future, but he’s also a part of the future that Cubs fans would actually be able to see immediately.
That goes a long way for all involved.
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