T-Minus 4 Days on Tanaka
It's a little less than 4 days before Decision Tanaka is due and nobody knows nothing except that everybody seems to need speculate on something. Bruce Levine reported that the Cubs will not be outbid. Gordon Wittenmyer said that's rubbish and Cubs remain a longshot. Jayson Stark kept hearing from important baseball people that the Cubs were going to make a splash and so on and so on.
As of this morning, the latest rumors are that the deal will be in the 6/120M range (not including posting fees) and that the Yankees and Cubs are the last 2 teams standing. Of course, it's also been said that Tanaka's agent Casey Close follows his namesake and doesn't negotiate through the media and we know the Cubs and Yankees like to keep things close to the vest. Unfortunately the Diamondbacks aren't in on this, otherwise we'd know exactly where everything stands thanks to Kevin Towers.
So what do we know? We know Tanaka will be playing his age 25 season, and that young age plus his pitching skills are why the Cubs and TheJedi would be willing to hand out their first 9-figure deal. Is the price going to be ridiculous? You betcha!!! And as Jayson Stark noted, only 8 other pitchers in the league are getting paid over $20M annually and only 2 don't own Cy Youngs (Kershaw, Sabathia, Hamels, Lee, Cain, Verlander, Greinke, and King Felix).
But of course, this isn't a case where you're paying for past performance, the Cubs would be paying for potential future performance and that's obviously not the norm by baseball practices, but on the other hand, probably smarter. Granted, the chances of Tanaka even being one of the top 5 pitchers in the National League are slim as most scouts put him more as a solid #2 pitcher. But #2 pitchers pitch like #1 pitchers all the time and Jeff Samardzija's numbers look like a #3 or #4 pitcher at the end of most every season, but there's #1 or #2 stuff in that arm that occasionally shows itself and the Cubs are hoping they get paid in prospects like he's a #1. So don't get too riled up about his alleged slot in the rotation. Travis Wood had the 12th best ERA in the National League last year, but when you look at things like FIP and BABIP, you realize, he's probably more a mid to low-end rotation starter. But you get enough good pitchers and you never know which ones will pitch great in any given year, you just hope for solid results and enough depth to make it through the season and then hope for a little magic and luck to ride through the postseason. A starting staff of Samardzija, Tanaka, T. Wood, E. Jackson (who will bounce back) and Jake Arrieta sure doesn't sound bad. I'm not sure it's great, but it's a good start for a few years while the minor league reinforcements continue their basic training.
So as the January 24th deadline looms, Tanaka and his family have some decisions to make. My guess is the Cubs know that joining a rebuilding team is a tough sell and they went all in on their bid, hoping to lure him with money and the promise that the winning is just around the corner. Now what that all-in means, we may or may not find out, but if he chooses to go with another team, my guess is the reasons will go beyond the financial ones.
You may have seen the announcement last week that MLB has approved the use of expanded instant replay. I won't go into the details, but fair to say I'm happy that there will be more correct calls and less incorrect calls. That is a good thing. It will not be perfect, although I'm sure some will demand perfection. Some folks are worried that it will extend the length of what is already a pretty lengthy baseball game. That may or may not be the case, since it would in theory cut down on some of the lengthy shouting matches over calls. What I would have really liked to accompany the announcement is that any player or manager protesting a call that goes beyond a moment of exasperation would be immediately ejected from a game. And if a manager left the dugout to argue, he'd immediately get slapped with a 5-game suspension with no appeal. Add that to the mix and you have a system that should work nicely and swiftly.