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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer says the team has interest in acquiring Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka after the right-hander went 24-0 in the regular season for Tohoku Rakuten this year.
Rakuten won the Nippon Professional Baseball championship as Tanaka saved the final game one day after losing his first decision of the year during the playoffs.
"We're going to be part of the process," Hoyer said Monday from the GM meetings in Orlando. "We've done our work on him and plan on being part of it."
The Cubs would have to win the right to negotiate with Tanaka but a new system is being negotiated before he or other Japanese players can sign with a major league team. Under the old system, a team would win the right to negotiate by submitting the highest blind bid, which would end up going to the Japanese team that lost its player. That system is being revamped as "posting" fees have skyrocketed. Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish was acquired after the Rangers won the bidding with a record $51.7 million posting fee.
One reported scenario has the major league team that wins the bid paying an average between the top two bids, while another suggestion is to abolish the bidding system entirely and wait until the Japanese players become free agents after nine years. It's unclear when the situation will be resolved.
Over the weekend, Cubs president Theo Epstein told a crowd of season-ticket holders that he wished "there was free agency for young players," as the Cubs are in a stated youth movement. Tanaka turned 25 on Nov.1 and fits the Cubs' needs as a top-of-the-rotation starter.
"It's rare these days," Hoyer said of a talent such as Tanaka being available. "They get posted at an age that is younger than the typical American free agent."
While it's likely the new system will bring the fees to acquire the rights to a player down, it's still going to cost the winning team a lot of money. Hoyer was asked whether the Cubs were serious about their pursuit.
"We wouldn't do it [scout him] for no reason," he replied.
The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers are two other teams reportedly interested in Tanaka.