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Cubs confirm interest in Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka

Japan's pitcher Masahiro Tanakthrows ball against Netherlands during fifth inning second-round Pool 1 game World Baseball Classic tournament Tokyo Dome

Japan's pitcher Masahiro Tanaka throws the ball against the Netherlands during the fifth inning of the second-round Pool 1 game in the World Baseball Classic tournament at Tokyo Dome on March 12, 2013. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

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Updated: December 13, 2013 6:28AM



ORLANDO, Fla. — As expected, the Cubs plan to make a posting bid for Japanese free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, just as they did — unsuccessfully — for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish and Korean pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu in the last two offseasons.

‘‘We’ll be part of the process,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said as the GM meetings opened Monday. “Going beyond that is really
unfair. But, obviously, we’ve done our work on him, and we plan on being part of it.’’

Beating the big-pocketed New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers will be another matter in a process that results simply with the top bid winning exclusive rights to negotiate a contract with the player.

Privately, the Cubs aren’t any more optimistic than they were when the cash-flush Texas Rangers and Dodgers won the Darvish and Ryu bids, respectively.

The bid process has changed slightly this year to protect the highest-bidding club from grossly overestimating the market, with the winner on the hook only for the average of the top two bids. Of course, that might offer an incentive to push the most aggressive bids even higher.

The Cubs’ realistic hope for
addressing their starting-pitching needs this winter involves trying to add one bona fide major-league starter. It might be two if right-hander Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs can’t reach a multiyear agreement and he ends up traded.

A long line of teams interested in Samardzija if the Cubs decide to shop him starts with the Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks asked about him when the Cubs were shopping right-hander Matt Garza last summer.

‘‘I think teams will certainly
inquire about [Samardzija],’’ Hoyer
said when asked about rumors that began before the season ended. ‘‘It’s been out there in the media that we’ve had negotiations with him and haven’t gotten a deal done yet, so . . . that’s probably part of it.’’

Negotiations haven’t restarted in earnest this winter, but Hoyer said the Cubs have remained ‘‘in pretty consistent contact’’ with Samardzija’s agent, ‘‘and we’ll certainly continue that.’’

Meanwhile, a baseball-operations department still waiting to reap the budget increases promised by a reopening of the WGN portion of its TV rights deal and upcoming stadium upgrades tries to do more with less than the big boys.

‘‘You’re just balancing interests to obtain as much quality pitching as you can, given your resources and the amount of flexibility you have,’’ president Theo Epstein said.

And hoping a guy such as
Tanaka doesn’t go for the kind of $75 million — or even $100 million — bids that have been floated in
reports so far.

‘‘We’ve had a lot of people see him and spend a lot of time on him,’’ Hoyer said. “We wouldn’t spend a lot of time on him if we weren’t planning on getting involved.’’



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