Yankees' Prep, Presentation Help Seal Tanaka Deal; Dodgers, Cubs Not Even Close?
Japanese P Masahiro Tanaka said that he chose to play for the Yankees because they "appreciated him the most among the many teams" pursuing him, according to Jim Armstrong of the AP. Tanaka said, "They gave me the highest evaluation and are a world-famous team." He added that he was "'relieved' the deal was done and looked forward to standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium" (AP, 1/23). In N.Y., Anthony McCarron notes the Yankees "brought an eight-person group" to L.A. to what "turned out to be a meeting of about two hours." The Yankees "contingent was made up" of GM Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi, President Randy Levine, Assistant GMs Jean Afterman and Billy Eppler, player development exec Trey Hillman, Pacific Rim Business Dir George Rose and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. The Yankees "came armed with a recruiting video, too, that they had begun preparing over the summer." The video "featured a message" from Japanese former MLBer Hideki Matsui. A source said that Matsui "called Tanaka to pitch the pinstripes." Cashman said the video was "an MTV Cribs-type situation about our ballpark, where you walk through the clubhouse, see all our facilities that we would have shown him. We wanted to provide as much as we could to close the gap" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/23).
THE ALSO-RANS: The DAILY NEWS' McCarron cites a source as saying that the Dodgers and Cubs were "in the sweepstakes until the end." The D-Backs, White Sox and Astros also were "known to be interested in Tanaka," and former MLBer Roger Clemens was "part of the group that tried to convince the pitcher to go to Houston." Tanaka and his agent Casey Close "managed to convince clubs not to leak details of the process." It was "so hush-hush that Cashman said he was uncertain of where the Yankees stood until a late-night phone call Tuesday from Close" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/23). SI.com's Tom Verducci noted the Cubs, despite rumors they would "chase Tanaka at any cost, were not the high bidders." The Yankees, given their "need, were not about to be outbid." They "added dollars, years and the sweetener of an opt-out clause to pull away from the pack" (SI.com, 1/22). MLB.com's Steve Gilbert noted the D-Backs "offered to fly to Japan to meet with Tanaka and his family." With team President & CEO Derrick Hall in Australia promoting the Opening Series with the Dodgers, the D-backs also "proposed flying Tanaka to Sydney to meet with team officials there and tour the historic Sydney Cricket Ground where Tanaka could have pitched the opener had he signed with Arizona." But Tanaka's reps had "each team meet with him in California and kept the process very uniform" (MLB.com, 1/22).
NOT CLOSE IN THE END: In Chicago, Paul Sullivan cites a source as saying the Cubs "weren't that close" to signing Tanaka. The Ricketts family, which owns the team, "may have the financial resources, but the baseball operations department simply didn't have it in its budget" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/23). MLB.com's Phil Rogers said, "I can’t give you a franchise that needed him more than the Cubs. ... It’s good for baseball when the Chicago Cubs are competitive. I think signing Tanaka would have given them the first big step towards being a team that the Cardinals and the Pirates were going to have to start taking seriously” (“Hot Stove,” MLB Network, 1/22). In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer writes under the header, "Cubs' Failure To Sign Tanaka Another Blow To Theo's Rebuilding Project" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/23).
TOO RICH FOR DEM BUMS? In L.A., Bill Shaikin cites a source as saying that the Yankees and Cubs "were believed to have outbid the Dodgers by 'a decent amount.'" Another source said the Dodgers were "not anywhere close." That is an "entirely defensible position to take" with Ps Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke on the roster. The Yankees are "desperate for arms; the Dodgers are not." But the "next few years will offer an intriguing referendum on how well the Dodgers have spent their money in building a touted international scouting operation" (L.A. TIMES, 1/23). Also in L.A., Steve Dilbeck writes under the header, "Does Losing Masahiro Tanaka Mean Dodgers Reached Financial Limit?" This is the "first time new Dodgers ownership drew an economic line it would not cross" (L.A. TIMES, 1/23).