Don’t Count the Cubs Out of the Masahiro Tanaka Sweepstakes

The Dodgers broke out their checkbook in a big way Wednesday and they may not be done. Clayton Kershaw agreed to a contract extension that will pay the 25-year old southpaw $215 million over the next seven years. And Kershaw can opt out of the contract after five years if he wants to pass on the last two years of the deal. According to Jon Heyman, Kershaw received an $18 million signing bonus and will be paid $22 million in 2014 ($18 million signing bonus, $4 million salary for the season), $30 million in 2015, $32 million in 2016, $33 million in 2017 and 2018, $32 million in 2019 and $33 million in 2020.

The Dodgers now have five players under contract with AAVs of $20 million or more while the rest of the National League has a total of six players and three of those wear a Phillies’ uniform. But the Dodgers are still in the running for Masahiro Tanaka and could end up with $350 million in commitments to two pitchers by next Friday.

According to multiple reports, the deal with Clayton Kershaw will have not have an impact on the team trying to sign Masahiro Tanaka. Stan Kasten would not address the Tanaka rumors Wednesday but suggested he could still be in play and told Bill Shaikin, one contract would not impact another one. Ken Rosenthal reported Dodgers’ ownership will make the call on whether or not to sign Tanaka.

The Dodgers are looking at a $250 million payroll for next season without Masahiro Tanaka. And they receive $300 million per year from their TV deal that begins this season.

Casey Close could swing a similar deal with the Dodgers for Masahiro Tanaka that he has for Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. As previously reported, Close could negotiate an opt out in Tanaka’s deal the same way he has for both Kershaw (after five years) and Greinke (after three years).

The Masahiro Tanaka Sweepstakes appears to be down to the Dodgers and Yankees. At least it appears that way with eight days remaining in the process.

The Angels are still trying to improve their pitching staff and have spoken with former Cubs’ starter Matt Garza. Arte Moreno confirmed to Jon Paul Morosi that his team did not meet with Tanaka while he was in Los Angeles last week. Many believe that the Mariners are still in the mix for Tanaka and the White Sox should not be counted out of the running as well.

Reports have suggested Tanaka would like to only pitch on the West Coast or for the Yankees. But when Jayson Stark “brought up the name ‘Tanaka’ to two people at the Owners Meetings on Wednesday morning, they both had the same response: Beware of the Cubs.”

The Cubs have been involved in the process for Masahiro Tanaka since the beginning. But when the posting system changed, the Cubs’ front office was given the challenge of selling Tanaka on pitching for the Cubs and for a team that was not ready to contend but for one that projects to be very good in the near future. If Stark’s sources are correct, the Cubs will end up spending more than a little bit of money this winter and in turn could speed up their building process.

The speculation will continue for a majority of the next eight days until there is some clarity in the process. And that will likely happen when teams that were thought to be in the mix for Masahiro Tanaka start signing other free agent pitchers such as Matt Garza, Bronson Arroyo, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana.

And with all of that said, the deadline to sign Masahiro Tanaka is 4:00pm CST on Jan. 24.

Paul Maholm

The Cubs are one of the teams believed to be interested in signing Paul Maholm. The former Cubs’ starter joined Casey Stern and Jim Bowden during Wednesday’s Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio/XM Radio) and said the Rangers are one of the teams that “have checked in” with him this winter.

Maholm believes Masahiro Tanaka is holding up the entire free agent pitching market and once Tanaka is signed the dominoes will fall. Maholm is not just looking to sign with a contender this off-season. He realizes how the business works and said he would sign with a non-contender that could flip him at the deadline. Paul Maholm and his wife really enjoyed their short-time in Chicago.

The Cubs are looking at starters like Paul Maholm, Scott Baker, Jason Hammel, Joe Saunders and possibly Joel Pineiro as options if they are unable to land Masahiro Tanaka.

Cubs News and Notes

According to multiple reports, Rick Renteria’s meeting with the Cubs’ prospects at Northwestern was rather impressive. Jason McLeod said Renteria’s talk “was incredible” and Albert Almora “was immediately impressed.” Almora told the Tribune, “Since the day I got drafted, I’ve said this team and this organization is family, and Rick seems like he fits right in.”

According to Patrick Mooney, the Cubs had interest and were “monitoring” Grady Sizemore before they signed Chris Coghlan to a minor league contract.

During an interview on MLB Radio Network, Darwin Barney said he was at the new facility in Mesa two weeks ago. Barney worked with new hitting coaches Bill Mueller and Mike Brumley while he was there. Barney also said he heard that Starlin Castro worked with Tim Buss for three or four weeks in the Dominican Republic this winter on his strength and conditioning. Barney added Castro was not happy with the way he played last year and will be more of himself this season.

The MLB Network has been asking fans of their favorite team to vote for the face of their franchise this off-season … Anthony Rizzo was voted as the face of the Chicago Cubs.

The Orioles signed OF Tyler Colvin to a Major League deal on Wednesday. Baltimore is expected to announce the signing once Colvin passes a physical.

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