Masahiro Tanaka Reportedly a Top Priority for the Cubs

According to a report from Phil Rogers, Masahiro Tanaka has “become a top priority for Cubs’ owner Tom Ricketts and his baseball group, headed by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.” Tanaka’s team, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, is expected to post the soon-to-be 25-year old right hander as soon as the Japan Series ends.

Rumors have suggested the Cubs would be one of the bidders for Tanaka this off-season prior to Rogers’ report. The Cubs will be among several teams that are believed to include the Rangers, Dodgers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Angels, Mariners, Giants and Yankees, to submit a bid for Tanaka. Most think the Yankees will not allow another team to outbid them for the opportunity to negotiate a contract with Tanaka. The posting fee and contract is expected to exceed $100 million and top what the Rangers paid for Yu Darvish ($107.7 million, six-year, $56 million contract that includes incentives plus $51,703,411 posting fee).

The posting system is expected to be restructured and that could impact where Tanaka lands in the big leagues. Under the old system, the team that submitted the highest sealed bid was awarded a window to negotiate a deal with the player. The Japanese team would receive the posting fee once the player signed with the Major League team. Under the new system, the player will have more choices about which team he can play for. According to a report from Baseball America in August, “one of the changes could include a system in which the posting fee would be capped, which in theory would give more money to the player than the Japanese team and allow MLB to count more money against the luxury tax.” Ben Badler explained, “in turn, multiple teams could then be allowed to win the posting rights and compete for the player.” It was uncertain in August what changes would be made to the posting system.

Newsday reported in September that “one of the proposals for a new system would have as many as three teams chosen among the top bidders, with the Japanese player then allowed to choose the club he’d prefer to play for and negotiate with.”

What changes will be made to the posting system are unclear at this point, but MLB teams received a memo from the commissioner’s office, earlier this year, that MLB and the Nippon Professional Baseball “were in discussions regarding potential revisions to the protocol agreement between the two leagues.” Kim Ng acknowledged to Newsday that the two sides are discussing the issues involving the posting process and are working through “different scenarios and resolutions.”

Masahiro Tanaka has not said that he will be posted after the Nippon Series concludes, but most expect he will be posted and the bidding will begin.

During the two years that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have led baseball operations for the Cubs, the team has lost out on Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, Yu Darvish and Hyun-Jin Ryu simply because they were outbid by the Athletics, Rangers and Dodgers. The Cubs were reportedly runner-ups for both Cespedes and Ryu while the posting bid they are believed to have submitted for Darvish was about half of the Rangers winning bid. The Cubs did land Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler with a nine-year, $30 million contract.

While he was still employed at ESPN Chicago, Bruce Levine reported Tanaka would be the Cubs’ number one priority of the off-season.

Phil Rogers reported the Cubs “are expected to be among the most heavily represented teams at the Japan Series” to watch Masahiro Tanaka.

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