The Tanaka Watch Continues and Other Cubs News and Notes

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.

From Patrick Mooney:

“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.

Kurt Suzuki

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.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors 

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  • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

    Happy to hear Mark Grace is back in baseball. I hope he has gotten help for his disease and can get his life back on track.

    • Eugene Debs

      Indeed. I’d also like to see an eventual reconciliation with the Cubs someday.

    • John_CC

      Indeed. He was a great ballplayer and a great Cub, one of my top 5 favorites probably.

    • cubtex

      I am not making this up. The mascot for the A ball team that Grace is coaching are Beer Hops :))) Hillsboro Hops

      • TheWrongGuy

        Yes it is very funny all things considered.

  • raymondrobertkoenig

    No Boras as Tanaka’s agent. Some team might get a good deal.

    • mutantbeast

      Indeed. BoreUS is where sports agents went wrong. Him and his old pal Jeff the Moron Marood.

  • cubtex

    So this is the list of starting pitchers.

    Shark
    Wood
    Arrieta
    Ejax

    possibilities for the 5th spot. Rusin, Wada, Liam Hendriks,Grimm,Cabrera,Kyle Hendricks,Neal Ramirez.

    FA signings: Jason Hammel, Scott Baker, Joel Pineiro(yes I heard the Cubs have interest) and the longshot Tanaka.

    If Shark is traded they will only have Wood Arrieta and EJax so adding a veteran FA starting pitcher would make sense but if they are not going to trade Shark….I would rather see an in house option since this team is not going anywhere.

    • Tony_Hall

      How about if Shark isn’t traded and Tanaka comes to Wrigley?

      1 Tanaka
      2 Samardzija
      3 Wood
      4 Jackson
      5 Arrieta

      • cubtex

        do you really believe there is a slim chance for Tanaka? The talk here in Texas is that Yu Darvish would help recruit him to the Rangers and then the Yankees. The Yankees will either try to stay under the luxury tax or BLOW it away and be over 200 mil. They have said it doesn’t make sense if they are 5 mil over luxury tax….might as well be 20 mil over it. Same penalty.

        • Tony_Hall

          Yes, I think there is a chance, how much of chance is really hard to know as none of us knows Tanaka, what he wants, and who has been recruiting and scouting him.

          We will know soon enough, but it is fun to make up lineups and rotations.

          • cubtex

            Cubs would have to blow other teams away. Rangers have a guy in Darvish who will help him transition and Yanks are the Yanks. Only chance is if Theo outbids other teams by 5 mil per year or so.

          • Tony_Hall

            When did $2-$3M per year become small?

            Don’t assume that the contract has to be more per year, more years at the same rate may do it as well.

            How do you know he likes Darvish? They are complete opposite personalities.

          • Tony_Hall

            Might want to scratch the Rangers off of the list of teams going for Tanaka.

          • cubtex

            lol. this isn’t the Cubs. Another Asian to lure Tanaka to the Rangers?

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            Tony is not the only one saying that about the Rangers now possibly being out on Tanaka. Texas also has Fielder on the books for the next seven years.

            We will see.

          • cubtex

            They are at 133 mil right now. Have plenty of room for Tanaka if they want him. We will see.

          • cubtex

            the 133 is updated with Choo added in.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            I think if Tanaka comes we have a great shot. It depends on if he wants to come. I believe Theo will give him a big offer.

        • John_CC

          Texas just laid another $20M per for the next 7 on one player. Do you really think they have another $140M to spend?

          Between Prince and Choo they have something like $268M tied up for the next 7 years. That’s a lot of dough for 2 players.

          Chop is gonna be an expensive DH platoon in a few years!

          • cubtex

            Big market baseball! Hopefully the Cubs will put on their big boy panties soon and join the club in the not too distant future.

      • CubbyDenCritic

        Tanaka is not coming here.

    • Tony_Hall

      Add to that, what if Baez and Bryant dominate ST and the Cubs say they are both ready?

      1 Castro SS
      2 Lake CF
      3 Rizzo 1B
      4 Bryant RF
      5 Baez 2B
      6 Schierholtz/Ruggiano LF
      7 Olt 3B
      8 Castillo C

      This is kind of fun, playing what if?

      • cubtex

        Here is the thing with Bryant and Baez. There will be tremendous pressure on the top 4 to succeed right away. All that the fans have been hearing about is the prospects the prospects. As Theo mentioned….these guys will have ups and downs. To bring these guys up so early would be totally unfair to them. Once they struggle….the fans will be all over them and it isn’t fair. Unfortunately…that is what the FO has done to the fanbase. If they fail right away it will be ugly.

        • Tony_Hall

          Always with the positive spin on things, slid right by that they had huge springs and how exciting it would be to see such a young lineup, with highly rated prospects in it.

          • cubtex

            Unfortunately it is the truth. What happened to “the thing I like about this FO is that they don’t rush players?” Wasn’t that your battle cry?

          • Tony_Hall

            There is no rush, if they have finished their development plan. That can happen in ST, it could have happened in the Arizona Fall League.

            If someone wins the lottery, I bet you talk about all the taxes they have to pay, and how it ruins so many people having to deal with all that money.

          • cubtex

            Good thing that isn’t my retirement plan. Hopefully that isn’t yours Mr. Positive!
            This goes to show you how many people are counting on the Baez,Bryant’s to be miracle workers. If it clouds your thought process…What I mean by that is a fan who is willing to wait several several several(did I say several) years to be competitive…..Imagine what it does to the impatient fan base.

          • Tony_Hall

            Nothing wrong with a positive outlook on life and life events.

            I did buy a ticket for the big mega millions, funny thing my wife thought she had bought a ticket for it as well, but when we looked at the ticket if was for the Power Ball drawing. I will try it again next time it gets to a big jackpot.

          • cubtex

            Of course not. You have to be in sales. But you also need to be practical. If you set a goal that is not possible….it is counterproductive. Say that you tell your son that you are positive that he can beat Floyd Mayweather Jr in a boxing match. I will give you the best training, the best facilities to train and we will listen to motivational tapes and pump nothing but positive thoughts in your head. We will have you box him and you will become champion of the world. Would that be a smart thing to do for the health of your son? You can do most everything better with positive thinking but you have to be practical as well.

          • Tony_Hall

            Sorry don’t see the relation to thinking my son would be able to box Floyd Mayweather Jr, to thinking the Cubs are building a proper foundation.

          • cubtex

            A little life lesson, Free of charge.

          • Tony_Hall

            I think I got my money’s worth…maybe.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            I always buy one for the big jackpots! It’s like some of these signings, probably won’t amount to much but very little to lose and a ton to gain.

            Ray, Tony et al, you guys probably won’t be one bit surprised to learn that I think I’ll win it one day too :). Odds are against it but I figure one day God may decide it’s my turn.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Cubtex is dead right. I think Lake succeeded last year because he
            flew in under the radar.

            Not much hope left in BJackson and even Vitters.

          • cubtex

            Teams figure out pretty quickly how to pitch to certain hitters. I like Lake. I have no problem with him playing everyday. He should be playing CF though because Almora won’t be here for at least 2 years and he will have more trade value as a CF in 2 years if he succeeds.

      • Ripsnorter1

        IMO, absolutely no chance for Bryant and Baez in April.

        1. Not going to mess with Super 2 status.
        2. Not going to rush their development.

        And the idea Olt will play in Wrigley in April, I don’t believe it.

        We will have:
        Lake CF
        Castro SS
        Rizzo 1B
        Schierholtz RF
        Castillo C
        Sweeney LF
        Valbuena 3B
        Barney 2B

        • Tony_Hall

          I agree with you on Bryant and Baez and I was playing the positive what if game to Tex’s negative what if game.

          • cubtex

            Thank you Mr. Positive

        • cubtex

          I hope they do put Lake in CF since that makes more sense with where they are at and what is coming. Unfortunately…I think he will be playing LF.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    A Christmas Wish List…………
    Theo Epstein…………Tanaka………or will settle for any TJ pitcher on a minor league contract
    Jed Hoyer…………….complete collapse of the Reds, Cardinals & Pirates in 2014
    Cubs Managers Renteria……..avoiding many long trips to the pitching mound in 2014
    Cubs Hitting Coach……….have his job after the All Star break
    Cubs Pitching Coach…….Pitchers who can throw strikes
    Rizzo……..to hit left handed pitchers
    Barney…..to hit the ball again.
    Olt / Murphy / Valbuena ….third base job.
    Castro…….his money back & a life long supply of sunflower seeds.
    Watkins…….chance to play second before Alcantara comes up.
    W Castillo…….145 games behind the plate
    Samardzija……..Notre Dame Bowl victory & more money
    E. Jackson……….Cy Young year
    Schierholtz………trade to a playoff bound team in July
    J Baez………..ROY honors
    B Jackson & J Vitters……….25 man roster spots.
    Cubs Fans……….30 straight World Titles just to stick it up the a** of all those Yankee & Cardinal fans!
    For me………….Peace on Earth…….and a dinner date with ex-Cubs ball girl Marla Collins.

  • Tony_Hall
    • CubbyDenCritic

      Slow sports news day when someone has to write an article on a back up outfielder.

    • SirGladiator

      That’s a great article. Ruggiano definitely has the potential to be a real star, all he needs is what Phil Hellmuth needs, to just be slightly less lucky than the average player. His talent will do the rest.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Shin-Soo Choo has agreed to terms with the Rangers on a 7-year contract according to Jon Heyman and Jeff Passan

    • cubtex

      I thought that is where he would end up. They will score some runs. Choo getting on base for Prince.

      • CubbyDenCritic

        Texas will choke again at playoff time.

    • Tony_Hall

      What are the guesses before it comes out?

      $154M is my guess.

      • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

        Jon Heyman – Choo deal is for $130M with Texas

        • CubbyDenCritic

          Save allot of money of not paying for those high NY tax rates.

          • cubtex

            Yep. No state tax here in Texas :)

          • GaryLeeT

            Rightly so, tax liability is a major part of the decision a player makes when negotiating a contract, and/or considering where he might play. Chicago is no port in the storm.

        • Tony_Hall

          I get the taxes, but still hard to believe he turned down 7/140 from the Yankees to take 7/130 from the Rangers.

          Even Choo is worried that the Yankees are old.

          • cubtex

            Most executives and scouts expected Shin-Soo Choo to wind up with the Rangers, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick
            reports. Sources say Choo liked Texas because of its recent run of
            success, the growing Korean population in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and
            because the team conducts Spring Training in Arizona,

            Here you go!

  • cubtex

    How does Choo signing affect Cubs? Will Mariners now go all out for Tanaka? Will Mariners trade for Price? Will Mariners trade for Shark? Will this take Rangers out of Tanaka market? Are the Yankees smiling now if the Rangers decide to bail? Is there a chance Cubs go after Nelson Cruz now?(doubt it)
    I will be taking in some games at Arlington next year. They will be exciting. If they win a WS in the next couple of years…..who cares about the last couple years of Choo’s and Fielder’s contracts??? That is a small price of winning a WS for a Big Market team.

    • CubbyDenCritic

      Nelson Cruz?……I think Theo will ask Hector Cruz come in for a try out.
      I do believe Tanaka will go to Texas to hook up with Darvish & Choo.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Are you serious? : )

        Theo is looking for CHEAP. Nelson Cruz is not CHEAP.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Ken Rosenthal – Perfect world: Rangers get corner UTL man with RH power to round out offense, one more veteran SP for depth, another power RH reliever. Per source, 1st year of Choo deal lower than others, giving Rangers add’l flexibility for ’14. Out on Tanaka; other moves would be smaller.

  • Eugene Debs

    With Choo signing with the Rangers, where does Cruz end up?

    • cubtex

      M’s are a possibility.

  • cubtex

    One of the reasons why the Rangers decided to go get Choo is the lack of outfielders for next years FA class. I think someone wrote an article on why it would be smart for the Cubs to sign Ellsbury for that same exact reason.
    Well, this will make some fans happy. It looks like the Cubs will have 4A outfielders patrolling Wrigley for at least the next 2 seasons. That will keep the outfield “fluid” so If and When the prospects are ready….they won’t be blocked.

    • GaryLeeT

      It’s funny how some Cub fans are under the delusion that at least 4 prospects are going to be perennial All Stars, and any hole that needs to be filled, will be done with FA’s that can’t wait to play for the Cubs. All this is going to happen within the next 2 years,while the other 29 teams will not be trying to improve their clubs, and will not make offers to any FAs the Cubs want.
      The FO says they are being honest about the rebuild, but they are not. It will be at least 4 more years before they look like a contender.

      • cubtex

        Schierholtz will be gone next year(if not sooner) Sweeney will probably show next year that he is what we all think he is..a #4. Ruggiano is a platoon player. Will Lake show that he is an everyday outfielder? Even if Bryant is moved to the outfield…there is room for a legit everyday outfielder for the next several years. Almora is 19 years old for crying out loud. He only played A ball this year. How realistic is it for him to be on the team in 2015? I hope Theo surprises us by adding some long term position players via trade because the fans will get restless if he thinks he can get away with this this plan for another 2 years let alone 4.

        • GaryLeeT

          They should have been adding permanent and subtracting dead weight players from the start, If they thought a team could be built in 3 or 4 years. Jed even said himself that a team can’t go “ready…set…start free agenting” when the prospects are up, but that’s what they are left with if they think they will compete in 2015.

        • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

          I don’t see any reason not to think Sweeney can have another good season. He always had potential and many people had high hopes for him. Last year may have been him finally living up to his billing.

          • cubtex

            We shall see but he finished last year like teams were figuring him out. He only hit .266. He hit around .265 the previous 2 years as well.

            Here is the stat to look at.

            For September/October of this year.

            91 PA’s with only 18 hits and a .225 average.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Blue hope, Mr. Boardrider. You have lots of it.

            Mr. Sweeney will not be as good in 2014 as he was in 2013.

      • Tony_Hall

        What about trades? That is another option available to add players?

        What about Int’l FA’s? Japanese players being posted? There are far more avenues to get players than just MLB FA to fill the holes that your system can’t produce.

        • cubtex

          What trade for a mlb ready everyday player has Theo made since he has been here??? Rizzo is the only one.

          • Tony_Hall

            Gary was talking about how to add in the next 2 years.

        • GaryLeeT

          I agree, but they need to get busy doing it. I was listing to the MLB network on XM, and they have a Friday afternoon segment that’s called the “penalty box”. They put the Cubs FO in there for their inexplicable inactivity.

          • Tony_Hall

            Which means they have not been paying attention, because there was no way anyone should have thought this would be an active off-season for the Cubs, except on the trade front. The only big money FA that makes sense is Tanaka.

          • GaryLeeT

            Either Choo, who is a bona fide lead-off hitter, or Nelson Cruz, or Beltran would have made sense for the Cubs. But not if they don’t want to win many games, or have vets in place for the youngsters coming up soon.

  • cubtex

    Richard Justice
    ‏@richardjustice
    The Texas Rangers have won the off-season. Boom! http://alturl.com/jh5bx

    • John_CC

      Boom, the kiss off death?

      Too bad there isn’t a trophy for the off-season champion. The Angels would have won something in 2012 and Blue Jays in 2013.

    • Tony_Hall

      Not sure when the last time the team that won the off-season won the World Series, but it has been a long time.

      • cubtex

        I didn’t write the story….just passing it along. lol

        • Tony_Hall

          So you know that winning the off-season means nothing.

          • cubtex

            I know that teams that spend money and add better players than they have had will have a very good chance of making the playoffs and going pretty far. You love when I mention this stat :) 3 out of 4 teams in the CS were top 5 payroll teams. Top payroll teams doesn’t guarantee a WS but Top payroll teams have a greater chance of making the playoffs.

          • Tony_Hall

            Ask the Angels how spending all that money has done for them.

            You mention top payroll teams have a better chance of MAKING the playoffs, why not mention the payrolls of the playoff teams, not just he CS teams. All you have to do is get in to have a chance. But when you add in the other 6 teams, the ratio doesn’t sound so impressive does it?

          • cubtex

            There are always exceptions. Remember a poster last year saying in June…this could be worse…we could be the Dodgers. I jumped all over that saying that I will take the Dodgers right now because they have Kershaw,Greinke and Ryu and even if they didn’t win this year they have a shot the next.
            Question Tony- Would you rather be the Rays or a 130 mil payroll team? I think you enjoy this WalMart shopping.

          • Tony_Hall

            No, I want to be the Cubs with the ability to have the large payroll after rebuilding like the Rays. Which would be the Rays, if they didn’t have to trade all their players away for more minor league guys, but instead for other teams Wil Myers. (Actually that is one of the first trades the Rays have done, that helped them in the immediate season, they usually do what the Cubs have been doing and getting younger players back)

            Just imagine if the Rays, after building up their farm system and development plans, had the payroll ability to keep the best of the best and trade away the rest for guys that other teams can’t afford that are All-Star level players still under control.

            I want to be the team that can trade for the other teams mid-20’s player who is already very good, instead of the team that shops at the 30 something window for players past their prime.

          • cubtex

            Rays could have won a WS if they never made the Garza deal and signed Crawford. Hellickson has been a bust and a terrible starter this past season. Maddon had no confidence in Archer down the stretch and he pitched poorly. They traded Shields.
            That goes to show you. The Rays could get close but they will not win. The 3 year 21 mil contract they gave Loney was their biggest in history. That is hilarious.

          • Tony_Hall

            Biggest FA contract, not contract.

            So, they could have won a WS if only they kept Garza and signed Crawford. Yeah, that’s it, just those 2 players makes them win a WS. They could have won with what they have had, but have not played their best baseball in the post season very often.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    I always been saying that either the Yankees or Dodgers/ Angels could land Tanaka…….but the “Dark Horse” could be Seattle…..it is possible that Seattle lands both Tanaka & Price……if that happens, Seattle has to be the favorite in that division in 2014……if Texas signs Tanaka, they have the prospects to land Price……….or Texas can trade for the next best pitcher out there…..which would be Samardzija.

  • paulcatanese

    While Lake is a breath of fresh air ( someone from the minors brought up ), he has at least two more years, on a serious team to learn how to use his glove. With the Cubs, that’s not a problem as they are not that serious, so he has time to grow.
    Lake can do it with the bat, not as great as last year, sufficient enough to play with the Cubs though.

  • cubtex

    • As far as discipline goes, Choo, Fielder and promoting Geovany Soto
    (4.25 pitches per plate appearance) will add real stress to opponent
    pitch counts.

    I had no idea that Soto was so good at working pitch counts. Isn’t that what the FO wants for the Cubs?

    • Tony_Hall

      Soto was always good at working the count and drawing his walks. That is what they want from their hitters, but his D and Castillo made them not want him. Oh and his every other year offense was another reason to ship him out.

  • cubtex

    OF Jerry Sands was DFA’d. Why not add him to the list? The more the merrier :)

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