The Chicago Cubs wanted right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, and they wanted him badly.
How serious were Cubs about Tanaka? Deadly serious. Haven't confirmed this but the word is they went to $150 million. Likely runner-up.
— Phil Rogers (@philgrogers) January 22, 2014
The New York Yankees — of course, it was them — reeled in Tanaka on Wednesday for $155 million (plus $20 million payable to his club in Japan). Oh, Cubs. You missed him by THAT much.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports said they weren't the only ones. The Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros — a surprise #mysteryteam — were bidding right to the end. But it was the Cubs, in the early stages of a rebuild at the hands of president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, who probably stood to lose the most — other than the Yankees — by getting mixed up with Tanaka.
And, well, Cubs lose. Again.
A season ago, the Cubs sought right-hander Anibal Sanchez, but lost him to the Detroit Tigers when he re-signed with them. Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago writes that the courting of Tanaka was similar. The story also ended the same way: with the Cubs not getting their man:
Players understand Chicago is a great city where Cubs players always get taken care of – plus there is a strong Japanese community for Tanaka’s family.
The industry consensus is that the Cubs have built an elite farm system and should cash in with a renovated Wrigley Field and new television deals (though all those timelines are a bit hazy).
Privately, multiple sources inside and outside the organization have echoed some version of the Scott Boras stump speech – Why won’t the Cubs spend like a big-market team? – just without one-liners like “Meet the Parents” or “All-Day Sucker.”
So, we're left with what Cubs fans have heard since 1908 — they're trying. They're just not winning yet. Still.
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