Updating the Tanaka Derby and Other Cubs News and Notes

Speculation continued Monday on which team will end up signing Masahiro Tanaka. And the usual suspects are still the favorites to sign the 25-year old right hander. The Tanaka derby will heat up in the coming days leading up to the deadline in ten days. Many have Tanaka signing with the Yankees with their new found payroll flexibility.

If the Cubs miss out on Tanaka, the front office is expected to add at least one starter to the roster going into Spring Training. Scott Baker and Jason Hammel have been connected to the Cubs’ this off-season and Baker is still looking to sign a Major League contract, not a minor league deal.

And the Cubs introduced the first official mascot in team history on Monday …

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka stayed in the news Monday but remained the side story to Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees made the signing of Brian Roberts official and used the spot vacated by the now restricted Alex Rodriguez to add him to their 40-man roster.

The addition of Roberts runs the Yankees’ payroll to $153.478 million without the salaries for their arbitration eligible players and benefits for the rest of the roster. According to Joel Sherman, that will add around $26 million to the Yankees’ payroll for 2014 … and their quest to be under $189 million is not looking to good, at least at the start of the season. Brian Cashman could still move players during the season, such as Ichiro or Alfonso Soriano, if he will waive his no-trade clause, in order to help them finish under $189 million for the year. The New York media still thinks the Yankees end up with Masahiro Tanaka and Grant Balfour with the money they are now saving.

The Yankees, Dodgers and Angels are thought to be the frontrunners to sign Tanaka at this point. And Tanaka’s wife would rather her husband sign with a team on the West Coast, at least according to one report.

The Red Sox did not meet with Tanaka while he was in Los Angeles but according to reports, the Red Sox have talked to Casey Close about his client. Boston may still pursue Tanaka according to Nick Cafardo.

Nine MLB.com columnists, analysts and personalities were asked where they thought Tanaka would end up signing. Four of the nine picked the Yankees, two think Seattle while the Cubs, Dodgers and Red Sox each received one vote. But Alden Gonzalez reported the Angels are said to be among Tanaka’s favorites. The Angels’ front office did not meet with Tanaka last week while he was in Los Angeles and Mike DiGiovanna thinks that is “an indication they won’t break the bank for him.”

The deadline to sign Masahiro Tanaka is just 10 days away … Jan. 24 at 4:00pm CST.

Scott Baker

The Cubs were thought to be interested in re-signing Scott Baker this off-season. Reports around the Winter Meetings indicated the Cubs had spoken to Baker’s agent about a possible reunion. The front office could turn to Scott Baker to add depth to the rotation if they are not able to sign their off-season target.

Darren Wolfson provided an update on Scott Baker. The Twins are not interested in re-signing Baker according to the report from Monday. Wolfson was told Baker is “throwing and feels great.” Baker has only received minor league offers this winter and is looking for a Major League contract.

Scott Baker signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Cubs in November of 2012. Baker was expected to miss the first month of the season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. But a setback in Spring Training pushed Baker’s debut in a Cubs’ uniform until September. Baker pitched in three games for the Cubs and said he was interested in re-signing with the club before the season ended. Baker turned 32 in September and has not pitched a full season in the majors since 2010.

Clark the Cub

The Cubs announced on Monday the team has added their first official mascot in franchise history … Clark the Cub.

According to the release, “Clark will be a champion for Cubs Charities’ mission of targeting improvements in health and wellness, fitness and education for children, and families at risk.” Clark will appear “at schools during Cubs Caravan or ‘Cubs on the Move’ fitness program visits, hospital appearances and other family-focused events.”

The team is promising Clark will “not be on top of the dugout between innings, tossing T-shirts or hot dogs into the stands and it won’t disrupt the game.” Clark will help welcome fans to Wrigley and on family Sundays, “the mascot will help kids run the bases after the game.”

ClarktheCub

Cubs Press Release

Clark’s Page on Cubs.com

Paul Sullivan asked Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija about the possibility of the Cubs adding a mascot nearly a year ago. Barney did not seem to mind the idea while Samardzija did not think it would go over at Wrigley Field.

News and Notes

Darren Wolfson provided two updates on former Cubs with Twins connections. Wolfson reported Monday that Matt Guerrier will start throwing off a mound on Friday and is expecting to be throwing without restrictions by Feb. 15. Prior to the end of the season, Guerrier said he enjoyed his short-time with the Cubs and was interested in returning to the team. The Twins are interested in Guerrier according to Wolfson while the Cubs have not been connected to him this winter.

RHP Rafael Dolis signed a minor league contract with the Giants that includes a non-roster invite to Spring Training.

The Reds signed former Cubs’ outfielder Thomas Neal to a minor league contract. The deal includes a non-roster invite to big league camp.

The Yankees, along with the Twins and Orioles, recently requested medical information on RHP Ervin Santana. Ken Rosenthal reported the Yankees were doing their due diligence because Santana would not be a good fit in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees, along with the Nationals, Twins, Rangers and Orioles, are among the teams “in on Mark Reynolds” according to Jon Heyman.

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Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver