Tanaka Posts, Samardzija Wants to Stay with the Cubs and Other News and Rumors

The Rakuten Golden Eagles announced on Tuesday night they will grant Masahiro Tanaka’s request and allow him to jump to the majors next season. Rakuten formally posted Masahiro Tanaka on Wednesday (Thursday in Japan) and the bidding is expected to begin very soon. Rakuten applied the maximum release fee, $20 million, to Tanaka. Under the new posting system that means any team willing to commit to the release fee will be able to negotiate a contract with Tanaka. Teams still have only 30 days in which to negotiate with and sign Tanaka to a contract. Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reported Masahiro Tanaka posting will begin Thursday morning (Dec. 26) and will be completed by January 24 at 5:00 pm ET (4:00pm CST).

Masahiro Tanaka announced Casey Close will be his agent on Wednesday. Close also represents the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

Reports have suggested Masahiro Tanaka is looking at a contract somewhere between $100 and $150 million, plus the release fee, and estimates on the length of the contract has been from four to seven years.

The Cubs are expected to be all in on Tanaka, and landing him could also influence Jeff Samardzija’s future with the team. The Cubs have the money to sign Tanaka, and pay the posting fee. Some think the Cubs will not be outbid for Tanaka, but the hard part for the front office will be to convince him to pitch for the Cubs and not the Yankees or Dodgers.

During last month’s meetings with the season-ticket holders, Theo Epstein casually said he wished there was free agency for young players. Well, Tanaka fits the Cubs’ plan as well as what Epstein mentioned during the meetings. Tanaka is only 25 years old. It is a big gamble to sign a pitcher to a long-term deal, especially one that has already logged a lot of innings (1315 innings over seven seasons) but once the Cubs begin restoring Wrigley Field, the TV and radio contracts are settled and the restrictions from the sale of the team are behind them, the Cubs will be able to spend like a big market team again.

The Yankees and Dodgers are seen as the frontrunners to land Tanaka, plus the Yankees are reportedly willing to go over their self-imposed salary cap ($189 million) for next season in order to sign him. The Diamondbacks, Mariners and Angels will also be factors and if the Rangers “find” a little more room on their payroll, Texas would like to add Masahiro Tanaka to a staff that already includes Yu Darvish. Plus, there have been rumblings Tanaka would like to pitch on the West Coast, which would obviously put the Dodgers, Angels and even the Mariners at the top of his list. Seattle has an advantage, like Texas with Darvish. Tanaka and Hisashi Iwakuma were teammates from 2007-2011 with the Eagles.

Jim Bowden did not mention the Cubs as one of the five teams he thinks has the best shot at Masahiro Tanaka. Bowden listed the Yankees, Angels, Rangers, Dodgers and Braves.

The Cubs’ front office has a lot of work to do if they would like to add Ma-Kun to the top of their rotation.

Jeff Samardzija

Patrick Mooney caught up with Jeff Samardzija after his visit with the children at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago on Monday.

Samardzija is hopeful something can be worked out with the Cubs to keep him in Chicago. Samardzija told Mooney that his situation is “not as dire as what it’s all being made out to be” and he acknowledged the front office is “listening and that’s what any team would do on any player.” Samardzija feels “there is still that common ground of what we both want to do.”

Samardzija also understands the delays with the renovations to Wrigley due to city policies and the alderman and he knows there are “a lot of different things that come into this timeline” that are out of his control. He explained that he feels he and the front office are on the same page and everything has been amicable. Samardzija added he feels “like there’s a decision that they need to make about what the plan is and what the future holds.”

Samardzija also pointed out, “The reality is we need to win and we need to win soon. I think the fans are ready for it. I definitely know the players are ready for it. I think the whole quote-unquote ‘rebuilding’ word gets old. And if it isn’t there already, it’s getting there in a hurry. That’s just the truth of the matter. You can only stretch that word so far.”

The days of the Cubs including no-trade clauses in player’s contracts are long gone. Theo Epstein is on record saying he does not believe in them. Samardzija was believed to be looking for a no-trade clause in any long term contract he signed with the Cubs, especially if he signed a team friendly deal. Samardzija had a no-trade clause in his original contract, but when the new regime declined his option following the 2011 season that voided his no-trade clause.

Jeff Samardzija has been working out at the Cubs’ new complex preparing for Spring Training. Samardzija thinks he is better prepared for next year after completing his first full season in a big league rotation. Samardzija also thinks he has “only scratched the surface” on his ability.

The Cubs are believed to be asking for a lot in return for Samardzija and their asking price (in terms of prospects in return) figures to only increase during the season.

Jeff Samardzija wants to stay with the Cubs and win at Wrigley Field.

Bruce Levine tweeted on Wednesday that signing Masahiro Tanaka could impact the Samardzija negotiations. Both the Cubs and Samardzija “may take a new approach” if the Cubs can outbid the field and land Tanaka.

Jesse Crain

Bruce Levine reported on Monday that the Cubs have shown some interest in RHP Jesse Crain and are checking his medicals. The Cubs are not the only team checking on Crain, who finished last season on the DL after an excellent start to the year.

The front office is exploring ways to improve the bullpen and have added Wesley Wright to the mix and agreed to terms on a one-year contract with Jose Veras. The Cubs also spoke with free agent Fernando Rodney and are believed to be looking at LHP Clayton Richard as a piece for the pen. Jonathan Sanchez signed a minor league contract and will compete for a spot in the Cubs’ pen in the spring.

The addition of a healthy Jesse Crain would give the Cubs a much-improved backend of the bullpen. Plus it would allow them to move a reliever like James Russell and give Pedro Strop move time to develop before he is used in high-leverage situations moving forward.

Suk-Min Yoon

The Cubs were one of several teams interested in signing free-agent Korean RHP Suk-Min Yoon. But he returned home last Saturday according to a report from The Korea Times after working out for Major League teams without a contract.

Yoon does not appear to be close to signing a contract according to the report. Yoon’s dream remains to pitch in the majors and has left his negotiations up to his agent Scott Boras. It has been a challenge to this point for Boras to find a team to sign his client.

The Cubs, along with the Twins and Royals, had interest in Yoon, but “the talks haven’t progressed to serious levels” according to the report.

News and Notes

Anthony Rizzo spent a little time on MLB Network Radio last Saturday and discussed his off-season, what is looking to accomplish during the upcoming season, the team’s mental lapses last season and how he and his teammates view trade rumors. Click here for a partial transcript of the interview … it is well worth the read.

Former Cubs’ southpaw, Hisanori Takahashi has returned to Japan and signed a two-year contract with the Yokohama BayStars.

Cubs’ pitchers and catchers report to the new facility in Mesa on Feb. 13 … just 49 more days until the beginning of Spring Training.

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Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax