The next seven days should be very interesting throughout the game. The Hall of Fame announcement will be made on Wednesday (Jan. 8) and it appears four players will join the trio of managers in Cooperstown this summer. Greg Maddux is still on 100 percent of the ballots that have been made public, but he will not be the first unanimous selection into the hall. A couple of the BBWAA writers are not expected to vote for him. As it currently stands, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Craig Biggio are on their way to enshrinement.
Also this week, the arbitrator’s decision on how many games Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for next season could be announced as early as Friday. And the number of games Rodriguez misses will impact the Yankees’ payroll for next season which will in turn affect their negotiations with Masahiro Tanaka.
According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs are still looking to add one or two more pitchers to the roster before Spring Training. The Cubs are thought to be interested in re-signing Scott Baker or inking Jason Hammel to a contract. Clayton Richard is thought to be on the Cubs’ radar but as a reliever and not as a starter, the same as Jonathan Sanchez. The Cubs have also scouted Joel Pineiro in winter ball. Levine did say if the Cubs add a pitcher it would likely be an “injury rehab guy.”
The Masahiro Tanaka Sweepstakes will really begin on Monday according to Andrew Marchand. Teams like the Cubs, Dodgers and Rangers “could go dollar-for-dollar” with the Yankees for Masahiro Tanaka according to Marchand and the Diamondbacks could be players too. But the team he says that could really challenge the Yankees for Tanaka is the Seattle Mariners. Marchand pointed out that Seattle could really use Tanaka even with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma already in their rotation.
Buster Olney made the case for why he thinks the Astros should go all out for Masahiro Tanaka. And the reasons Olney gives for Houston needing to land him are similar to why many think the Cubs will be involved in the process until the end. The Astros have prospects on the way to the big leagues, plus Mark Appel and very likely Carlos Rodon, along with Tanaka would make for a very good rotation, at least on paper, in a couple of years. As with the Cubs, Houston would have to sell him on leading a young team and staff as well as overpay him for his services.
Olney pointed out that no one knows what Masahiro Tanaka is looking for in free agency. Rumors have suggested Tanaka would like to pitch on the West Coast and some think he would welcome pitching in the same rotation as Iwakuma again. And for every report that says Tanaka would like to pitch on the West Coast and would not mind be reunited with Iwakuma, there are reports that say the exact opposite. Olney also explained no one knows if he is looking for the best contract or what will motivate him to sign with a certain team.
The field of teams interested in Tanaka should drop to five or six next week when teams begin discussing what it would take to sign Masahiro Tanaka with Casey Close. Once the dust clears, the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Mariners, Angels and the Diamondbacks should be the teams Casey Close remains in constant contact with over the next three weeks.
Former Cubs’ General Manager, Jim Hendry, joined Bruce Levine and Ben Finfer during Hot Stove Saturday on The Score. Jim Hendry is currently the Special Assistant to Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman.
Bruce Levine started the interview by acknowledging the fact he could not ask Hendry directly about Masahiro Tanaka and the interest the Yankees may or may not have in the 25-year old right hander. Levine asked Hendry to comment about the international players currently in the big leagues and how international players may be viewed differently in the game than they once were.
Hendry said that pitchers, like Yu Darvish, have made a huge difference with the way teams view players from the Pacific Rim. Hendry added the landscape has changed in the last 10-15 years. Hendry pointed out baseball is a global game now and teams must scout and develop players from all over the world. Hendry said the Asian market is a big part of it.
Each team probably sends 10-15 scouts to watch the high end players and pitchers. Hendry explained the hope is teams are able to benefit from the work they put in to find the best talent possible and that the rewards outweigh the risks teams take on the players.
Ben Finfer asked Hendry about how the talent level in Japan compares to the majors. The talent level in Japan “has made great progress” according to Hendry and “the depth of it is much better than it used to be years ago in terms of quality and especially in terms of pitching.” Hendry feels that besides the high end players that are posted, there are a lot of players in Japan that could play in the big leagues.
As for working for the Yankees as a Special Assistant to Brian Cashman, Hendry said the Yankees do everything at the highest level and the entire organization is full of quality people and full of quality baseball people from top to bottom. Hendry added he thinks working for the Yankees is something everyone in baseball should be able to do at some point during their career.
Ben Finfer asked Hendry if he is able to keep up with the progress of some of the players he brought into the Cubs’ system such as Javier Baez, Starlin Castro and Jeff Samardzija. Hendry explained he “still has a good relationship with a lot of people” with the Cubs and that he and Theo Epstein have a good relationship. Hendry said, “I think the Cubs have some real, real quality young players and I think people in Chicago are going to start seeing the fruits of their labor here in the next few years. I think position player wise they’ve got some of the better prospects in the game. It will be fun to see and hopefully they will be able to get it going again. And I think they will. I think that Tom Ricketts is committed to finishing it off and getting the job done and having a quality team for a long time. There is no reason why they can’t.”
News, Notes and Rumors
The Orioles are still in the market to add a starting pitcher according to Roch Kubatko. Baltimore could be looking to sign a starter and not trade for one but Dan Duquette will not be signing Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana. Duquette is not looking to trade one of his young pitchers and will not surrender his first round draft pick to sign a player tied to draft pick compensation. The O’s were thought to be interested in trading for Jeff Samardzija at one point, but if they are not willing to part with multiple top end pitching prospects, the Cubs and Orioles will not match up on a trade for Samardzija.
And … Pitchers and catchers report to the Cubs’ new facility in 39 days (Feb. 13).