It is the final Sunday of the year, 2014 is just around the corner. MLB teams will get back to work this week and it could be rather busy end of the year.
The talk and focus around the game continues to be Masahiro Tanaka and where he will end up pitching in the upcoming season. A couple of new teams entered The Tanaka Sweepstakes on Saturday while the Toronto Blue Jays might not offer a six or seven-year deal that many feel it will take to sign him. The Twins will be part of the Tanaka process according to a report from Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com in Minneapolis. As Wolfson reported, many teams are interested in Tanaka under the new posting system and soon it will be easier to name the teams not involved in the process than those that have submitted the paperwork to MLB and NPB they are willing to pay the $20 million release fee. With all of the teams that have jumped into the process, it would be interesting to know how many of them actually spent the time scouting Masahiro Tanaka over the last two seasons preparing for him to be posted.
Jed Hoyer, Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod are on record stating the Cubs have scouted Masahiro Tanaka and have done all of their due diligence on him.
The Cubs, Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, Mariners, Astros, Red Sox, Twins, Braves, Rangers, Phillies, Diamondbacks and Giants have been connected to Masahiro Tanaka. And multiple teams have reportedly contacted Casey Close about his client. Now the question becomes, which team will make the first offer to get the process moving? Teams have until Jan. 24 to sign Masahiro Tanaka to a contract.
The L.A. Times and Ken Rosenthal addressed the report from Japan that surfaced on Thursday that Masahiro Tanaka plans on “giving back” to the Rakuten Golden Eagles with financial support and donations. Tanaka told the Japanese media he is going to “help” update Rakuten’s facilities and stadium “to make sure the Eagles are a team the Tohoku fans continue to love.”
Bill Shaikin and Dylan Hernandez reported Friday night “the commissioner’s office is expected to review the winning bid to ensure his Japanese club does not get more than the $20 million promised under a new agreement between Major League Baseball and its Japanese counterpart.”
MLB spokesman, Pat Courtney told the LA Times, “The agreement between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball expressly prohibits a Japanese club from getting any value other than the so-called posting fee, directly or indirectly, including through the player.”
MLB will enforce the new rules of the posting agreement. And according to the report, Casey Close has not responded to the Japanese reports of Tanaka plans to give back to Rakuten to help his team. Shaikin added to his report on Twitter and said MLB’s main concern is that a team will try to circumvent the posting process in order to sign Tanaka.
Ken Rosenthal reported there is a concern teams will find loopholes in the new agreement and “back-channeling” is “the biggest concern under the new agreement.”
Jeff Samardzija spoke with Patrick Mooney last week about his future with the Cubs, trade rumors and that he is tired of the quote-unquote rebuilding word. Samardzija wants to stay and win with the Cubs. But Samardzija was back in the rumor mill on Thursday thanks to a report from Rock Kubatko.
Samardzija’s future with the Cubs could be tied to the front office being able to sign Masahiro Tanaka according to Bruce Levine. Signing Tanaka would accelerate the building process and would send a message to Samardzija that the front office is trying to win games. Plus an Opening Day rotation of Samardzija, Tanaka, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta would look pretty good on paper.
- Full Report – Jeff Samardzija Wants to Stay with the Cubs
The Cubs announced the signing of Jose Veras on Friday to a one-year contract. The addition of Veras puts the Cubs’ 40-man roster at 40 players. The front office will have to make a roster move to add any more players to the Major League roster this off-season.
The Cubs’ claimed RHP Brett Marshall off waivers from the Yankees last Monday and lost RHP Liam Hendriks on waivers to the Orioles.
News, Notes and Rumors
Javier Baez will be ranked among the top five prospects in the game on Baseball Prospectus’ 101 Top Prospects of 2014 and three of the top players in the Cubs’ system will be ranked in the top 25. Jason Parks indicated on Saturday that as of now the Cubs will have seven prospects in BP’s Top 101 for 2014.
RHP Jesse Crain is on the Cubs’ radar. According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs have checked his medicals and would like to sign the veteran reliever to a one-year contract. Crain would provide veteran leadership and another reliable arm in the pen, if he is healthy. And the Cubs would be able to flip a healthy Crain prior to July’s deadline.
According to multiple reports, the Cubs were one of the teams interested in signing Korean RHP Suk-Min Yoon. Yoon spent time in the states working out for teams before returning home last Saturday without a contract. Yoon is represented by Scott Boras and he is trying to find a team for his client.
The 29th Annual Cubs Convention (Jan. 17-Jan. 19) begins in just 19 days. This year’s convention pass features a photo of Wrigley Field with the caption “The Party of the Century Celebrating 100 Years of Wrigley.” Wonder what will be the two main topics of conversation that weekend?
According to Jim Bowden, the best comp for Masahiro Tanaka is Dan Haren from 2006-2011 due to Haren’s “great command and a 70 split” during those seasons. And Peter Gammons tweeted a quote from Bobby Valentine that Tanaka has the best splitter in the world. Baseball America also labeled Tanaka’s splitter (forkball) as the best in the world.
Peter Gammons reminded those that follow him on Twitter that when Theo Epstein took a “break” in Boston, Rakuten contacted Epstein about doing consulting work for them.
Athlete charities are not always winners according to the Tribune.
Steve Clevenger is ready to compete for a job to back-up Matt Wieters according to Roch Kobatko. Clevenger was sent to Baltimore, along with Scott Feldman, in the deal the Cubs acquired Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta.
Cubs’ pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 13, 46 days, and the first Cactus League game at Cubs Park against the Diamondbacks is Feb. 27. So only 60 days until there is baseball again.