There's no doubt that the Cubs' front office would've loved to make a splash this offseason by signing Japanese pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka. However, for the money that Tanaka ended up receiving from the Yankees, it may have turned out to be more like a belly flop.
Tanaka received a seven year, $155M deal from the Bronx Bombers who are back to their usual frivolous spending on players such as Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury. Even while spending the money they did, the deal made sense for the Yankees. They're ready to compete now and they have the money and willingness to spend that makes paying an unproven pitcher more than $20M a year a defendable decision.
On the other hand, the Cubs would have been making a big mistake if they had signed Tanaka to a deal worth that much money. It's not that the Cubs don't have enough money to be able to sign Tanaka, they do. The problem is that at Chicago's current stage, spending of that nature would've made no sense at all.
While his resume in Japan is extremely impressive, there is absolutely no telling how effective Tanaka will be in the major leagues.
So is he worth more than $20M a year?
Only time will tell, but that's a risk the Cubs were smart not to take. They've experienced first hand how a large contract given to a pitcher can backfire when they signed Edwin Jackson to a four year deal that was worth $52M including his signing bonus.
It doesn't seem like Jackson is the same caliber pitcher that Tanaka is, but nonetheless a similar backfire would spell disaster for a team that can see the light at the end of the tunnel of their rebuilding process.
With the amount of money that the Cubs saved by not signing Tanaka, they will be able to make more of a splash in the 2015 offseason. That's when the team's dollars will be doing the most to transform the Lovable Losers into the Watchable Winners.
Brett Anderson, Johnny Cueto, Jon Lester, Justin Masterson, Max Scherzer and Edison Volquez, among others, will be free-agent pitchers in 2015 as of right now. The large chunk of money that the Cubs saved by not overpaying for Tanaka can go towards players of their caliber and as a result, impact the future of the organization in a more cost-friendly way.