ORLANDO, Fla. – The Cubs will be in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes, but don’t expect them to win a bidding war for the Japanese star.
The general manager meetings opened Monday at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes. The international press corps inside the lobby buzzed about Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and saved Game 7 for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japan Series.
“We’ve done our work on him,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “We plan on being part of it.”
But so will the big-market teams fueled by television money and go-for-it ownership groups. Signing a 25-year-old frontline pitcher is a rare opportunity. A reworked posting system is expected to be unveiled soon, with Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball hammering out a new agreement.
One club official questioned why the Cubs would sink more than $100 million into one player when the team has so many needs and doubted Tanaka will land in Chicago.
Sources have also sent signals it’s unlikely the Cubs would have the wherewithal to make a winning bid, especially if the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers go all-in for Tanaka.
“We wouldn’t do it for no reason,” Hoyer said. “It’s something that we’ve talked about. I think every team is waiting on the exact rules and getting a feel for formulating a plan. So we haven’t gone that far, but we’ve scouted him and we’re paying attention to what happens to the bidding process. And we plan to be part of it.”
The Cubs are waiting for the new revenues to start flowing at a renovated Wrigley Field, a project that has been stuck in gridlock. They also need to negotiate new local television deals (with their own cable network off the table until 2020).
That would make it difficult to put together the kind of upfront payment the Texas Rangers made for the right to negotiate with Japanese superstar Yu Darvish.
The Rangers paid a $51.7 million posting fee and then signed Darvish to a six-year, $60 million contract. The two-time All-Star has gone 29-18 with a 3.34 ERA and 498 strikeouts in 401 innings across the past two seasons.
The Dodgers also blew away the Cubs last offseason, bidding $25.7 million on Hyun-Jin Ryu. The South Korean lefty signed a six-year, $36 million deal and went 14-8 with 3.00 ERA as a rookie on a division-winning team.
Tanaka is supposed to be the next big thing. But it would be a major surprise to see him wearing a Cubs uniform in 2014.