CHICAGO -- Even though the Chicago White Sox failed to land the biggest prize on the free-agent market this winter, the events surrounding the pursuit of pitcher Masahiro Tanaka seemed to have left more optimism than disappointment.
Both manager Robin Ventura and second baseman Gordon Beckham said Wednesday that the fact that the White Sox were willing to pursue Tanaka seemed to bode well for the future.
“You don’t sit there and get into the nuts and bolts of it unless you are going to be serious about it,” said Ventura, who met with Tanaka earlier this month in Los Angeles, along with general manager Rick Hahn and executive vice president Kenny Williams. “They were serious. I appreciate trying to get us better players.”
Reports Wednesday said that Tanaka ultimately chose to sign with the New York Yankees for seven years and $155 million. On top of that, the Yankees owe Tanaka’s former team in Japan a $20 million posting fee.
Tanaka is a complete unknown in major league circles, but he did post a 24-0 record this past season to go along with a 1.24 ERA, while leading the Rakuten Golden Eagles to the Japanese League title.
The contract terms Tanaka received are nowhere near what the White Sox have been willing to spend on pitchers in the past. It is not known what the White Sox offered, but all teams in the bidding reportedly were offering at least $100 million.
“Everybody is a gamble now,” Ventura said. “You do see (Yu) Darvish come over and do well. You really can only go on the precedent of that. Everybody else is judged by other people and who they stack up against. Everything is a gamble when you start putting that many years on somebody and giving them that much money. Everybody is taking a risk.”
Instead of sharing a locker room with Tanaka, Beckham will now have to face him when the White Sox and Yankees meet twice in the upcoming season.
“I was hoping we would land him, obviously, but I know that they put in a strong bid and came up short,” Beckham said. “I think Tanaka probably wanted to go to New York anyway. It’s what it sounded like. We gave it a shot and I think it shows a lot of the organization of where they want to go and how they want this train to roll.
“I was excited to hear that we were even interested because sometimes in years past we haven’t been (interested in high-priced free agents). We missed that one, but there are still guys out there. Maybe we do something, maybe we don’t, but we’re in a much better place I think than we were at the start of the season last year, even though we came in with all those expectations.”
Despite not landing the biggest fish in the pond, Beckham feels that prior moves have lent a sense of optimism for the upcoming season. Going back to last July, the White Sox acquired outfielder Avisail Garcia in a three-team deal, they signed first baseman Jose Abreu and traded for center fielder Adam Eaton and third baseman Matt Davidson in separate deals.
“I guess you knew Rick was going to make some moves but you didn’t know how they would affect the team,” Beckham said. “I really feel like he has done a great job of reshaping the team. It’s tough to see the guys go that we have lost but I do believe it is for the better of this team and this franchise. I love them. I love them personally, not that my opinion matters at all.
“I think Adam Eaton is going to be good, I think that the other guy, Davidson, will be fine. We’ve obviously added Jose. There is a lot to be positive about and it’s going to be fun to show up and see everybody compete and go out and just try to win games.”