Despite the reports on Thursday morning, the Rakuten Golden Eagles have not made a decision on whether or not they will post Masahiro Tanaka this winter. Most still think he will be made available to Major League teams this off-season, but it is pretty clear that no one, not even Tanaka, knows at this point. Yozo Tachibana indicated on Thursday the team is still discussing the matter internally, but promised on Friday the decision would not be delayed much longer.
Masahiro Tanaka is doing his part to be ready, if he is posted. Tanaka has narrowed his search for an agent down to Casey Close, Arn Tellem and Mark Pieper. Tanaka could be leaning toward hiring Casey Close to represent him according to the report from Yahoo Japan.
The Cubs, along with all of baseball, appear to be waiting on the Rakuten Golden Eagles to announce whether or not they will be posting Masahiro Tanaka this winter. Peter Gammons put it well on Thursday. Gammons said, “The Tanaka decision has put free agent pitchers Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez on hold. It has slowed down what trade markets existed for David Price and Jeff Samardzija.” And the disruption to the free agent market is now a concern for the Major League Players Association according to Jon Paul Morosi.
The Japanese media is covering the Tanaka story to the extreme, even to the point of reporting that Tanaka is still practicing with the ball that is used in Japan, not a Major League baseball, because if he practices with the different ball the media will make a bigger deal out of than it actually is.
The Tanaka Watch continues into Saturday … and it will likely be just before Christmas, at the earliest, before Major League Baseball knows one way or the other if Tanaka will be posted. Rakuten’s team office is closed through December 23.
Rakuten did make a big announcement on Friday with the signing of Kevin Youkilis.
The Cubs Off-Season
The Cubs inactivity this winter is wearing thin on the most patient fan base in all of sports. Jed Hoyer addressed the Cubs off-season with Patrick Mooney as the team waits for a chance to negotiate a deal with Masahiro Tanaka and continue to listen to offers for Jeff Samardzija.
“We’re obviously focused on trying to time things well and make sure that we have a long continuous winning streak/era. Trying to ramp that up too quickly (could) be something that really negatively impacts us. And I do think that historically there’s been a lot of moves that have been made for that reason: ‘This is what the fans want.’ You want to excite the fans in December, (but) you look back over the teams that quote-unquote ‘won the offseason’ and they almost always lost the offseason. I think that’s usually a pretty safe rule. So we’re trying to do what we feel is right for the long-term picture. There’s obviously things we will certainly do for the short-term. But as far as trying to create headlines – trying to win the winter – that’s almost always a fool’s errand.”
Jed Hoyer discussed the Cubs’ quiet off-season during a segment on Thursday night’s David Kaplan Show (720 WGN). Hoyer said the Cubs inactivity this winter is not from a lack of work or a lack of trying and he thinks it will be a fairly active January.
There were “things” they worked hard on during the Winter Meetings that could still come to fruition later on this off-season. There were some things that “came close” and some free agents they either opted out of the bidding at a certain point or didn’t quite get the player.
Those rumors that suggested the Cubs were interested in signing Kurt Suzuki came to an end on Friday when the veteran catcher agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Twins.
Multiple reports over the last week suggested the Cubs were still in the mix for Kurt Suzuki, even with George Kottaras under contract for next year. According to Ken Rosenthal, Minnesota will pay Suzuki $2.75 million, plus incentives, next season.
News, Notes and Rumors
Andy MacPhail knows what Theo Epstein is going through according to an excellent report from Patrick Mooney.
Former Cubs’ utility infielder, Cody Ransom will be playing for the Seibu Lions next season according to Patrick Newman.
Mark Grace is back in baseball. The Diamondbacks hired Grace to be the hitting coach for Short-Season, Low-A Hillsboro Hops of the Northwest League. Grace and Bill Buckner will be in opposing dugouts this summer when the Boise Hawks face Hillsboro.
And speaking of former Cubs’ players, Michael Barrett was named the manager of the Gulf Coast League Nationals on Friday.
Matt Garza is priority number one for the Angels as they try to add a starting pitcher, despite the rumors his medicals have raised more than a few questions about Garza this winter. The Angels could turn to Jason Hammel, if they lose out on Garza, Masahiro Tanaka and Bronson Arroyo.
MLB pitchers could wear protective headgear as soon as the 2014 season. Brandon McCarthy spoke with Fox Sports about the possibility and said from the way he understands it protective headgear will be available next season, but not mandatory for pitchers to wear.
Joel Sherman speculated the Yankees could gamble on the “health-challenged” Scott Baker and sign him to help in the rotation. The Cubs have talked to Baker about re-signing this winter … and the Angels could be interested in signing Scott Baker as well.
Kris Bryant is talking advantage of early opportunities … and according to Peter Gammons, it is going to be tough for the Cubs to keep him out of a big league uniform if he keeps producing in the spring the way he has to this point of his professional career.