Two years ago, the major-league posting system with Japan's Nippon Pro Baseball (NPB) provoked a bidding war over Yu Darvish that was eventually won by the Texas Rangers. The Cubs were reported to have come in a distant second in the posting bid.
Major League executives no longer attend the World Series like they once did. In fact, it’s rare to see a general manager at a World Series game if his team is not involved. But there is a destination for GMs this week – that’s Kleenex Stadium in Sendai, Japan. The Cubs are expected to be among the most heavily represented teams at the Japan Series, with a strong interest in 24-year old right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. He will pitch Game 2 for his Rakuten Golden Eagles, taking a 25-0 record into a game that starts about 5 a.m. CST Sunday. Tanaka, according to Major League Baseball sources, has become a top priority for Cubs’ owner Tom Ricketts and his baseball group, headed by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. He is expected to be offered up for the posting process by the Golden Eagles after the Japan Series, and the Cubs will bid heavily on it.
Tanaka is the same age now (24) that Darvish was when he was posted; Tanaka has had seasons comparable to Darvish's in NPB, although it's never certain how those will translate to major-league baseball. Some Japanese pitchers (Hideo Nomo in his first few years, Hiroki Kuroda) have done quite well; others (Hideki Irabu, Kei Igawa) have been busts. Tanaka also appeared in four games in the 2013 World Baseball Classic (one start, three relief appearances), throwing seven innings, allowing 10 hits and two earned runs with 12 strikeouts and no walks. His control has been one of his best attributes in Japan; in 1,284 innings he has a BB/9 ratio of 1.9.
Getting a winning bid on Tanaka and signing him, presuming his talent does translate over to MLB, would be a huge statement by management of the Cubs that they intend not only to continue to build a strong organization, but also want to try to improve the big-league team as soon as possible. I'm all in favor of this; Tanaka will turn 25 next week so he's certainly young enough to provide several of his best seasons to any team that gets him.
Go for it, Theo & Jed.