The Cubs have made it clear that their top priority for the off-season this year is to sign Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka is one of the top free agents this season and is expected to be a valuable pitching addition to any team. If the Cubs were to add Tanaka to their rotation, he could make a great second man behind ace Jeff Samardzja. Tanaka is also being targeted by the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, and the Boston Red Sox.
Tanaka has been on the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles since he was 19 in 2007 and has been a star on the team, including winning the Pacific League rookie of the year award that same year. He was also a five-time all-star from 2007-2010, 2011-2012, as well as winning the 2011 Eiji Sawamura award (similar to MLB’ Cy Young award for pitchers).
Tanaka is 99-35 in his career playing in the Nippon baseball league, while also posting 1,238 career strikeouts and a 2.30 career earned run average. Tanaka owns the Nippon baseball record of most consecutive wins with 21 and the second pitcher in the league to go undefeated in a season(24-0)since Shigekuni Mashiba in 1981 who went 15-0.
If Tanaka was to come to the Cubs, the question would be where he would go into the rotation. Currently the ace spot is held down by right-hander Jeff Samardzija, but that could change if Tanaka was to come to the team. Others in the current rotation are right-handers Scott Baker, Edwin Jackson, and Jake Arietta with all-star southpaw Travis Wood rounding it out. Tanaka could be used behind ace Samardzija to make a good second man, but really any spot he goes to could improve the Cubs already shaky pitching system.
Tanaka’s skills will come at a price though, as the bidding for the Japanese all star is starting in the $50 million range. Ranger pitcher Yu Darvish secured a $56 million deal from his team when testing the MLB free agent market when coming over from Japan, and Tanaka’s talents are worth just as much. With bids coming in from teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and now the Dodgers, the Cubs will have to put in the extra effort to make Tanaka will come into the Windy City.