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Cubs Thu Jan 23 2014

Tanaka Fallout: Why The Money Wasn't Worth It

Cubs_200.pngMasahiro Tanaka wasn't entirely about the money. Sure, he did sign with the Yankees, who were offering him the most cash, but from all accounts, he wanted to win now and be the best pitcher on the team doing the winning. All the stars pointed to New York, who desperately needed a top-30 pitcher to give them a chance at reaching the playoffs with a dangerously old team that won't start a single player under 30 years old on opening day.

Seven years and $155 million is a lot of coin for a guy, who despite having great stuff to go along with an ace's mindset, has never thrown a pitch on American soil. He's also been worked to the bone, which isn't unusual for Japanese starters who only throw every sixth day (compared to every fifth in the U.S.), but is a bit alarming when you learn that he started pitching professionally and throwing a staggering amount of innings when he was 18 and 19 years old. Just last year, he threw 160 pitches in a Game 6 loss during the Japan Series, only to go out and throw 15 more the following night to close the game and win the series. That kind of effort will instantly make you part of MLB lore, but it's also dangerous to the arm.

According to Patrick Mooney of Comcast SportsNet Chicago, the Cubs final offer came in at six years, $120 million. A fantastic offer from a team that would basically use this season as a warm up for Tanaka in the States. By the way it sounds, the Yankees were the only team willing to go to seven years, and it put them over the top. They also offered a win now opportunity, along with Japanese legends Ichiro and Hiroki Kuroda as teammates to ease Tanaka's transition to pro baseball in America.

For the Cubs to overcome all of those factors, they would've probably needed $170 million, and that still doesn't include the $20 million fee that has to be paid to Tanaka's old team in Japan. The Yankees also threw in a no-trade clause along with an opt-out for Tanaka after four years, which is all upside for the player: pitch well and get paid bigger money in 2018, or pitch poorly, and cash the guaranteed checks on New York's dime.

The risks of going that high were far too great for a Cubs team that is still watching its pennies to a degree. Despite large spending in the amateur ranks and in Latin America, the team is keeping a svelte major league payroll while negotiating with rooftop owners on a deal that will allow the team to start construction without future court battles (which sadly broke down a couple days ago), along with discussinga new television contract with multiple networks. One thing is certain after seeing the Cubs offer though: the money is there when the front office thinks it's worth it.

Forget about the 2014 Cubs. That's not the focus of the organization, and it shouldn't be yours either. They made a play at Tanaka because they hope and plan to start contending in 2015 when names like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Arismendy Alcantara, and Jorge Soler are all starting to get called up alongside Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. The team lacks an ace pitcher in the organization, and that's why they made a play at Tanaka. He was the perfect player to be aggressive with because of his age (25) and the fact that it wouldn't cost the team a draft pick like other future free agents might. The cost this time around was just too high when taking all the facts of the player and the current state of the team into consideration.

Speaking of those future free agents, there are some good ones hitting the market next winter: Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Homer Bailey, Brandon Morrow, James Shields, and Justin Masterson will all be able to sign with the team of their choice. The Cubs also have plenty of trade assets if they want an ace too -- sporting the second best minor league system in Major League Baseball according to Baseball Prospectus.

Sure it would've been great for PR and the feelings of fans if the Cubs would've landed Tanaka, but the world won't stop spinning now that he's a Yankee. The future of the organization is as bright as it has ever been, and the plan hasn't changed. The team will continue to build up their system so they can churn out yearly contenders like St. Louis and Tampa Bay do. Don't jump off the bandwagon now when the good times train is prepping to leave the station.

 
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