In the span of 72 hours, the Chicago Cubs have went from having no chance to land Japanese starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to being one of the reported finalists.
Reports on Monday indicated that the Cubs and New York Yankees are the two finalists to sign Tanaka. Tanaka needs to sign a Major League contract by Friday and the expectation is that he will make his decision within the next 48 hours. The growing consensus is that the Cubs will not be outbid for Tanaka but that may not be the top priority for the Japanese pitcher.
The 25-year old starting pitcher is believed to have a preference for playing for a contending team. That may be why the Yankees could be the team that winds up signing Tanaka.
But don’t give up on the Cubs just yet. There is no question that the Cubs will submit the highest offer for Tanaka. That alone may be enough to persuade Tanaka to sign with the Cubs. However, even if Tanaka is set on playing for a contending team, that is no reason to count the Cubs out of the sweepstakes.
Follow the motto that has been echoed much of these past three seasons; In Theo, we trust.
Cubs president Theo Epstein has already succeeded in convincing the Tanaka that Cubs should be the team that he needs to sign with. If that wasn’t the case, the Cubs would not be considered a finalist for Tanaka’s services.
Lets speak to the notion of Tanaka not being interested in the Cubs because the team is not a contender. The case can be easily made that the addition of Tanaka to the Cubs would go a long way into making the team a contender. With Tanaka in the picture, that likely would increase the chances that the Cubs retain starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Meaning the the top of the Cubs rotation would include both Samardzija and Tanaka; a tandem that would be among the best in the National League.
Beyond that, the Cubs have no impact pitching in their farm system. Meaning there likely would come a time in the not-so distant future that the team would be forced to trade one of their top position prospects for impact pitching. That would not be the case if the Cubs sign Tanaka. Tanaka is a 25-year old impact pitcher who fits perfectly into the Cubs timeline. With his addition, the team would be able to potentially retain all of their top position prospects. A move that would enable the Cubs to contend faster than if they missed out on Tanaka.
The Cubs deserve to be finalists for Tanaka and don’t let out-dated beat reporters tell you otherwise. (Hello Gordon Wittenmyer).