They just missed. A year behind and $23 million dollars short. The Chicago Cubs put up a good fight to try and land the prized Japanese import, Masahiro Tanaka, who ultimately brought his services to the Bronx to the tune of a well-publicized $155 million dollar contract. The Cubs wanted him. They needed him to satisfy a fan base that is fed up with a long rebuilding process. The Cubs needed Tanaka to be the centerpiece of the off-season and help construct a winning team. But he wasn’t. The Yankees wanted him, too. The Yankees wanted him and they needed him and nothing was going to stop them from having him. The Cubs went up against the big boys in the Bronx and lost. Now the Cubs organization have some hard medicine to swallow and it’s not going to go down easily.
You could almost hear the groans of anguish coming from Cubs’ president, Theo Epstein as Tanaka delivered each artful strikeout to his team. He wanted him for the Cubs so bad and now he was pitching against him and dominating. Pouring salt on an open wound, the Japanese ace struck out ten batters as he shutout the Cubs in eight absolutely fantastic innings. Tanaka was shoving a “what could have been” situation down Chicago’s throats and it’s a tough pill to swallow.
The Cubs boast one of the best farm systems in baseball with Javier Baez and Kris Bryant highlighting their top notch position prospects. But both stud hitters are still a year or two away from being Major League ready and the Cubs system lacks top-notch pitching. C.J. Edwards was acquired from the Rangers last season but one pitcher does not a rotation make. They’re best pitcher, Jeff Samardzija, has made it clear that a long term contract extension is out of the question because losing 100 games a year isn’t ideal for him. Signing Masahiro Tanaka would have opened the door to keep Samardzija in Chicago long term. It would have been a sign that the team was ready to win and was getting better. Now Samardzija being traded at some point this season is almost a definite. They’ll get more prospects in return and once again tell their fans to wait… and wait… and keep waiting.
Losing out on Tanaka was crushing and watching him totally shut down the Cubs’ offense was painful I’m sure. So much was placed on him. They needed him. He was supposed to be the new face of Chicago sports and help them break the Curse of the Billy Goat that has kept liquor stores in the North Side thriving since 1908. It was a sweet dream and it would have come true if the Yankees had not been involved. When the sweepstakes ended and Tanaka donned pinstripes, Cubs fans were left saying, “I bet he’ll be a bust!” Not so much. Not yet.