The White Sox were perceived to be a long shot in the process that also included another big-spending team in the Los Angeles Dodgers. Reports said the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros also gave it their best shot.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said he had a simple reason for playing out the process.
“In the end, obviously he wound up elsewhere, but we view this as a situation where you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take, and it was worth the effort,” he said Wednesday. “We saw Mr. Tanaka as a player who could complement and fit in nicely to some of the other things we've accomplished over the last several months.”
The White Sox offered no specifics about their offer for Tanaka, but some reports had them willing to spend at least $100 million. The Yankees signed him to a seven-year, $155 million deal.
“I will say there have been multiple reports about the magnitude of our offer, the seriousness of our offer and for once, these rumors seem to be somewhat accurate in terms of the intensity of our pursuit and our efforts to get this done,” Hahn said. “In the end, the market took it to a level that we just weren’t comfortable going to in terms of the commitment and the cost of the franchise going forward.”
Coming off a 99-loss season and not known for giving lengthy pitching contracts or $100 million deals, the White Sox were never considered a favorite to land Tanaka. They jumped into the bidding process anyway, with Hahn, manager Robin Ventura and executive vice president Kenny Williams meeting with Tanaka and his representatives in Beverly Hills, Calif., earlier this month.
“We knew the market was going to be robust and any time you're dealing with multiple bidders on a free agent, the price gets higher than you would probably have hoped,” Hahn said. “We certainly were competing against some of the higher-revenue teams in the game.”
Hahn added that bidding against higher-revenue teams doesn’t always mean missing out on a player, pointing to the signing of Abreu earlier this offseason for six years and $68 million.
“At no point during [the Abreu] process and at no point during [the Tanaka] process did we doubt our ability to present and potentially sell the player on the benefits of joining the White Sox organization, nor our ability to compete financially and present a significant and meaningful offer,” Hahn said. “Obviously on Abreu, we were able to convert on that and on Tanaka, he decided to go a different direction.”
Just because the White Sox were willing to spend a large amount on the 25-year-old Tanaka does not mean they are now ready to use those finances elsewhere. Tanaka’s age and ability were the biggest reasons the White Sox were willing to spend heavily this time around.
“It was a substantial economic offer and if a similar situation presents itself in terms of the ability to find a long-term solution for one of our needs, we’ll be able to dip into those resources again I believe, as was the case with Abreu,” Hahn said. “I don’t see -- assessing free agency right now as we sit here on Jan. 22 -- I don’t necessarily see a similar opportunity on the free-agent market at this time. Perhaps via trade down the road or into and beyond next season, a similar situation will arise and I expect us to be similarly aggressive.”
Hahn said the team is willing to go to spring training with the starting pitchers they have in house right now, although the team will keep searching for options. If nobody else is acquired, Chris Sale would be at the top of the rotation along with Jose Quintana and John Danks. Filling out the back half of the rotation would be a battle among Erik Johnson, Felipe Paulino, Andre Rienzo, Charlie Leesman and Eric Surkamp, who was obtained off waivers from the San Francisco Giants.
“Certainly prior to Opening Day, I don’t have the sense that we’re done by any stretch or aspire to be done,” Hahn said. “That said, with Chris and Jose at the front and John Danks 18 months [past his shoulder surgery], we feel real good about what those three are going to give us.”