Rick Renteria Confirms Cubs Met with Masahiro Tanaka

Earlier in the week it was assumed the Masahiro Tanaka derby was down to two teams, the Yankees and Dodgers, but that is not the case with a week left to the deadline (Jan, 24, 4:00pm CST). A day after two executives told Jayson Stark to beware of the Cubs when asked about Tanaka, Ken Rosenthal reported Thursday morning the Cubs “are pushing hard for Tanaka.” And when Tom Ricketts was approached at the Owners Meetings and asked about his team’s interest in Tanaka, Ricketts said he “must respect the process” and declined to comment any further before quickly removing himself from the situation.

Cubs’ manager Rick Renteria not only confirmed the team met with Masahiro Tanaka last week in Los Angeles, he also provided a little information on their sales pitch to the 25-year old right hander during one of Thursday’s stops on the Cubs Caravan.

Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Rick Renteria met with Masahiro Tanaka and several of his representatives, including two translators according to the Sun-Times.

Rick Renteria said the Cubs pitched the future of the organization, as expected, as the reason he should sign with the team. Renteria hopes they were able to sell him on the Cubs but admitted he is not sure where the team stands with Tanaka at this point according to the Tribune.

The Cubs’ manager said he was going to try to learn a little Japanese in the event they do sign Tanaka and he ordered Rosetta Stone to help learn the language.

David Kaplan reported the Cubs are “sitting at the table with the game’s heavyweights and are prepared to spend an insane amount of money for Tanaka.” Then Jayson Stark added an exclamation point to the day when he reported it’s “amazing how many owners in Arizona were convinced the Cubs are ready to blow away the field and sign Tanaka to a monster deal.”

The Cubs have been in on Tanaka since the beginning and even before Jed Hoyer mentioned they would be involved in the process in November at the season ticket holder meetings. The Cubs are prepared to offer him a rather large contract in order to land their off-season target. The teams viewed as the Cubs biggest competition for Tanaka, the Yankees and Dodgers, have different time frames than the Cubs. While adding Tanaka would speed up the building process and possibly help retain Jeff Samardzija, the Yankees are desperate for pitching, and, well … they are the Yankees. As for the Dodgers, the new ownership is putting a ton of money behind winning at least one World Series with the core they have in place.

Several reports have started to suggest the Cubs “need” to sign Masahiro Tanaka … for more than one reason.

According to David Kaplan, several teams “need to have some idea this weekend of where they stand” with Tanaka so if they need to switch gears there is still time to add one of the free agent starters still on the market.

No one is sure what Masahiro Tanaka is looking for. Is he looking to sign with the highest bidder? Or is he looking for the best situation for him and his family? One of Kaplan’s sources said he does not believe “it will come down to the last dollar for Tanaka” and he “believes it will come down to which situation feels the most comfortable for Tanaka and his family.”

Casey Close asked teams involved in Tanaka to keep the process confidential and not to divulge any information to the media. Teams seem to be getting restless and several addressed where they stand with Tanaka.

Yankees

Hal Steinbrenner told Ken Davidoff that “he recently spoke with Casey Close” and according to the report, Steinbrenner just wanted to tell Close that Tanaka is “a great player” and he has “a lot of respect for him.” Steinbrenner would not confirm or deny the Yankees met with Tanaka in Los Angeles last week. Davidoff indicated Steinbrenner did make it clear how bad the Yankees want to sign Tanaka and add him to their rotation.

And as for the Yankees pursuit of being under $189 million for next season maybe keeping them from signing Tanaka, Hal Steinbrenner said Thursday that is not the case. The Yankees’ payroll goal will not impact whether or not they sign Masahiro Tanaka.

If New York is not able to sign Tanaka, look for the Yankees to add another free agent starter but they are not believed to be interested in signing Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.

Dodgers

In case you haven’t noticed, the Dodgers are spending whatever it takes to field the best team possible. The Dodgers have a seemingly endless supply of money due to their enormous TV contract and they are more than willing to use it. Masahiro Tanaka would slot in behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in their rotation. There are not too many teams that can pay $140 million dollars for a third starter.

Having Tanaka in their rotation would give the Dodgers a luxury many teams cannot afford.

Angels

The Angels are still involved in the Masahiro Tanaka derby according to Ken Rosenthal. But Buster Olney’s sources have told him the Angels insist privately “that they are not seriously involved to other teams in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes.” And Arte Moreno told Jon Paul Morosi Wednesday that his team did not meet with Tanaka while he was in their city last week.

The Angels have been trying to add a frontline starter all winter and could be a landing spot for Matt Garza.

Blue Jays

Alex Anthropolous would like to add a starter to his rotation before Spring Training, either via free agency or by trade. Anthropolous tried to pry Jeff Samardzija away from the Cubs but thought Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were asking for too much in return.

Anthropolous thinks the cost to add a starter to the mix is too high right now. Shi Davidi reported Anthropolous is looking for a bargain and he has not been able to find one.

It appears Toronto is out of the Tanaka sweepstakes.

White Sox

Kenny Williams told Chuck Garfein he believes the White Sox “still have a chance to sign the most coveted pitcher remaining on the free agent market.” Williams does not think “money will be the biggest factor” to Tanaka and the Sox are “not going to give up” until someone tells them the White Sox are out of the running.

The White Sox feel Masahiro Tanaka is looking for the situation that gives him the best chance to succeed.

The Mariners and Diamondbacks are believed to still be in the running for Masahiro Tanaka. Plus the ‘Mystery Team’ has yet to surface and will a week left in the process there is still time.

News and Notes

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Orioles are “having ongoing discussions” with Bronson Arroyo. The Dodgers are also in the mix for Arroyo and view him as a back-up plan if they are not able to sign Masahiro Tanaka. Arroyo is looking for a three-year contract, and the Dodgers may be willing to go only two years at this point. If the Dodgers ink Arroyo most feel they are out of the Tanaka derby.

The Marlins signed former Cubs’ reliever Henry Rodriguez to a minor league deal that includes a non-roster invite to Spring Training.

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