Beyond Tanaka, Cubs targeting multiple pitchers

Beyond Tanaka, Cubs targeting multiple pitchers
December 10, 2013, 9:00 pm
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Cubs are thinking globally in their search for more pitching.

While waiting for the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes to begin, major-league sources said the Cubs have also put Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda and Korean right-hander Suk-Min Yoon on their radar.

Industry officials said the Cubs are also monitoring Jason Hammel and Scott Baker as rotation options. 

Teams were still waiting on Tuesday to see a final version of a new posting agreement between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball - and find out if the Rakuten Golden Eagles will be making Tanaka available.

[MORE: Cubs GM Hoyer says Samardzija and Tanaka isn’t either/or deal]

Those have been missing pieces of the puzzle at the winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Tanaka - the 25-year-old Japanese ace who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season - has been at the center of the lobby buzz inside the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.

Inside the organization, there's skepticism the Cubs will be able to land Tanaka. The capped posting fee would essentially be a $20 million tax on what should be a huge free-agent contract.

"In theory, it's going to play out over a lot of time," general manager Jed Hoyer said. "You can't wait around. You have to make your moves. But, yeah, I think continuing to add to our depth is really important. We could add more than one (starter)."

Maeda, 25, would be subjected to the posting system. He went 15-7 with a 2.10 ERA for the Hiroshima Carp last season, putting up 158 strikeouts against 40 walks in 175.2 innings.

Yoon is a 27-year-old free agent who has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen with the Kia Tigers in the Korea Baseball Organization.

For now, the Cubs have four starters penciled into their rotation: Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta.

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Baker took the long road back from Tommy John surgery and made only three starts for the Cubs last season after signing a one-year, $5.5 million deal. The Cubs have met with his agent and a team source indicated he's looking to sign another one-year, incentives-based deal.

Hammel, 31, has pitched for the Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies and Tampa Bay Rays. He's put up underwhelming career numbers - 49-59 with a 4.80 ERA - but the Cubs have been good at identifying change-of-scenery, under-the-radar pitchers like Paul Maholm and Scott Feldman.

"We only need one starter in theory," Hoyer said, "but I think we know that we'll go through a lot more starters. We're on a lot of starting pitchers and we could well sign more than one starter. That's a possibility. Someone's going to be hurt. Someone can go to the bullpen for a short amount of time. It's a dangerous game, playing the just-enough-starting-pitchers game."