It’s the final day of 2013. Will the Cubs make any moves on the last day of the year? From all indications, the Cubs’ front office is focused on Masahiro Tanaka right now and for the most part, so is the rest of baseball. At least in between the Hall of Fame debates.
Masahiro Tanaka’s workload made a headline on Monday. Jeff Passan reported that Tanaka’s pitch counts are a concern to a number of executives surveyed by Yahoo Sports. According to the report, Masahiro Tanaka has averaged more pitches per start (113.3) over the past five seasons than Justin Verlander (112.9) and Felix Hernandez (106.5). Passan went onto explain the pitch counts he amassed as a 17-year old and as a 20-year old then reminded everyone of the 160 pitches he threw in game six of the Japan Series and followed it up the next day with a 15-pitch effort to close out Rakuten’s first championship.
Masahiro Tanaka completed 1315 innings in 175 games during his seven-year career in Japan while Yu Darvish totaled 1268 1/3 innings in 167 appearances during his seven years with the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Teams that are interested in signing Tanaka may be willing to take the risk for a right-hander who just turned 25 in November due to his projected upside. And as Passan pointed out, Tanaka does throw what has been labeled the best splitter in the world.
Wallace Matthews reported the Yankees have not made “meaningful contact” with Casey Close about Tanaka and they probably will not until next week. According to the report, “Close is said to be on vacation with his family and will not be open for business again until Monday.”
The Diamondbacks are considering making a trip to Japan to speak with Tanaka and the Dodgers have yet to confirm publicly if they are interested in Tanaka. The Cubs and Giants are the other two NL teams known to have interest.
Mike DiGiovanna reported on Monday he believes the Angels are going hard after Tanaka following a conversation with Angels’ GM Jerry Dipoto. As for the other AL West teams, the Mariners are thought to be all in on Tanaka as well and the Astros have also been connected to Tanaka. But Houston is viewed as a longshot, at best, to sign Tanaka and many feel the Twins fall into the same category as the Astros.
The Rangers do not appear to be in the mix for Tanaka. Jon Daniels would not comment directly about Tanaka was he was asked about his team’s interest in him last week. Daniels said he was looking to add more of a back of the rotation starter to his team and not a top of the rotation arm. Thad Levine, the Rangers’ assistant GM, reiterated the same on Monday morning during an interview with Jim Memolo and Todd Hollandsworth on MLB Network Radio. Levine said at this point the Rangers are looking at moving forward with the team they have in place. Levine added if the season started tomorrow they would be ready to go and they really like their starting rotation the way it is currently constructed.
As for the other teams in the American League that could make a run at Masahiro Tanaka. As Nick Cafardo reported, the Red Sox figure to be big players in The Tanaka Sweepstakes before it is all said and done. And, do not count out the Toronto Blue Jays in this process. Alex Anthropolous has been looking for a top of the rotation starter and the Blue Jays have done all of their homework on Masahiro Tanaka.
Teams have until Jan. 24 at 4:00pm CST to sign Masahiro Tanaka to a contract.
News and Notes
FanGraphs posted two good reports on Masahiro Tanaka on Monday. Click on the links to read Dave Cameron’s ‘Masahiro Tanka and Prospect Valuation‘ and Tony Blegino’s ‘Tanaka-Fest: This Is Going To Be Insane‘
Jason Parks revealed more information about Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101 Prospects for 2014 on Monday. Parks has already indicated Javier Baez will be ranked among the top five prospects in the game and that three of the Cubs’ young players will be ranked in the top 25. The Cubs will have seven prospects in the Top 101 for 2014, tied for the second most in baseball. Parks tweeted on Monday the Twins will place eight prospects in the BP 101 followed by the Cubs, Royals, Pirates and Rangers with seven. The Red Sox will have six players ranked in the Top 101.
Comcast SportsNet took a look at what the Cubs will be up against in the NL Central in 2014 as the teams are currently constructed.
Yes, the game has changed according to Bernie Pleskoff.