The Chicago Cubs Should Pass On Tanaka

The Chicago Cubs are currently in the running for Masahiro Tanaka, the best pitcher in Japan over the last few years. In fact, near the end of this week he will be visiting Chicago to speak with both the Cubs and White Sox about his future employment, possibly with one of these teams. However the Cubs are currently on a path set for building, and shouldn’t put themselves in a position to throw off those plans by acquiring someone who’s ready for a “win now” type of team.

Chicago Cubs: Just Let Tanaka Go

By Robert Villarreal (MLB Reports Cubs Writer)

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Let me start by saying this: I have never seen Masahiro Tanaka play but from the footage I’ve seen I’d love to see him in Cubbie blue. 

He’s an incredible talent; So good in fact that once Yu Darvish left for America and the Major Leagues, he automatically became the best pitcher currently in Japan.

There are only 17 more days left in Tanaka’s 30-day signing period, with multiple teams anxiously awaiting a shot at the next pitching phenom.

However it would be in the Cubs best interest to pass on Tanaka at this time, no matter how incredible that argument may seem right now.


With Tom Ricketts being a long time fan himself, he wanted to change the organization -- to be rid of the "lovable losers" moniker and become one of the elite powers in all of Major League Baseball. To do this he needed help and in October 2011 he hired on Theo Epstein as Team President. Theo has a knack for building having helped the Boston Red Sox to a World Series Championship as the youngest general manager in all of baseball. Epstein then hired on current Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, and the rebuild began. It's tough to swallow a combined record of 127-197 since the new regime began, and another year or two of enduring will be required. 2014 won't be the Cubs' year.Team President Theo Epstein has a plan in motion to build up this ball club. Since he and general manager Jed Hoyer arrived, there have been plenty of interesting moves in the major league level, as well as stocking the farm system with tons of young talent. These younger players won’t be ready for a while, and when they are, contracts may need to be renewed and signed. Theo knows that although Tanaka would be a fantastic addition to any pitching staff, the club must concentrate on their future, not their “right now.”

Tanaka, 25, has completely dominated Nippon Professional Baseball posting a perfect 24-0 record this past season to go along with his 1.27 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.

If you have any idea about what those numbers mean, then you know they’re down right awesome.

He also won the Sawamura Award this past season (The equivalent of MLB’s Cy Young).

Obviously any team could make room for a talent like this on their roster. But no matter how good that looks, the Cubs need him to go elsewhere.

Tanaka would also command a healthy chunk of the Cubs salary if signed.

The club is currently floating around in the $90-$105 Million range for salary “cap.”

If the Cubs offered and Tanaka accepted, they could easily be spending 15-25% of that amount on one pitcher.

Not only would they be spending that one one pitcher, but it’d be for nothing more than a circus act; a draw for customer to come see every 5-6 days in hopes of seeing some amazing pitching.

This would be great now, but down the road in 2016-17 when they want to be competitive, where will the money be?

According to current contracts, less than 10 players are under contract until that time, and many will be finished with arbitration and heading into their Unrestricted Free Agent years.

It takes a full 25 man roster to be competitive in today’s Major Leagues, with even a few Minor Leaguers thrown into the mix too.

Don’t expect the self imposed “cap” the Cubs are currently working with to go up anytime soon.

For now Epstein and Hoyer will have to make due, and to make due, they’ll have to stay away from those shiny new Free Agents that would command such huge contracts, or brand new MLB players being posted, like Tanaka.

The Cubs are looking to the future, and Masahiro Tanaka won’t be a part of it.


Jeff Samardzija was undoubtedly the gem of the Cubs rotation last season. He's not quite an "ace", but in 213.2 innings in 2013, he threw 214 strike outs, which is stellar to say the least. As the Cubs take major strides in rebuilding, Samardzija has been rumored to being shopped around to other clubs, possibly filling in missing holes in the farm system, or gaining (always valuable) relief pitching, witch the Cubs have missed sorely for years.Jeff Samardzija was undoubtedly the gem of the Cubs rotation last season. He’s not quite an “ace”, but in 213.2 innings in 2013, he threw 214 strike outs, which is stellar to say the least. As the Cubs take major strides in rebuilding, Samardzija has been rumored to being shopped around to other clubs, possibly filling in missing holes in the farm system, or gaining (always valuable) relief pitching, which the Cubs have missed sorely for years. You’d assume Tanaka would easily slide into the Cubs #2 spot in the rotation between Samardzija and Travis Wood, but he’s never pitched in this type of rotation. In Japan, most pitcher go every seven days, not four to five like in America. Could his stamina be tested early?

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

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A big thank-you goes out to our ‘Cubs Correspondent’ Robert Villarreal for preparing today’s featured article.

Robert is an avid sports blogger pursuing a dream to write about sports and to be a sports radio personality one day.

A Rockford, IL native, he’s a graduate of Kishwaukee College and lover of all things Chicago. He lives in Loves Park, IL with his wife and two children, and is involved in fundraising for YMCA Charities.

Follow Robert on Twitter: RobMVillarreal

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About Robert Villarreal

Chicago Cubs columnist for http://www.sportsblog.com & http://mlbreports.com. Lover of coffee & whiskey, not always in that order. KCCO.

Posted on January 7, 2014, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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