CHICAGO -- Looking back, it was a bit of a subdued Chicago Cubs convention this year as the weekend didn’t have a marquee player or moment to seize upon.
There were no big introductions of new star players, nor even the buzz of a recent Hall of Fame electee, Greg Maddux, walking around. He had prior commitments.
Last year the Cubs made headlines on convention weekend by unveiling their ambitious Wrigley Field renovation project, but this year all they could tell their fans was it’s getting closer to starting -- that is if the final hurdle with rooftop owners can be overcome. It’s little news that they announced a four-year offseason project instead of five, considering the first year was eaten up by politics anyway.
Having all their top prospects in one place while celebrating the 30th anniversary of the division-winning 1984 team felt nice, but those things should have been the icing on the cake -- not the cake itself. Having a new manager and coaching staff to introduce to fans produced some interest, but even then the buzz wasn’t exactly loud. It might be a good staff, but it’s not one well known to the average Cubs fan. Only Bill Mueller and possibly Eric Hinske bring some name recognition.
The irony of the weekend is the most talked about player -- and the one who can create the biggest buzz of the offseason -- is the one the team talked very little about: Japanese free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
“I’m going to respect the request of confidentiality that’s come from the agent and the player, just let things play out,” team president Theo Epstein said on Friday.
President of business operations, Crane Kenney, added this on Saturday: “I’m not going to comment on the Tanaka matter. 'A', it’s a baseball operations matter and 'B', (agent) Casey Close has asked us not to.”
And general manager Jed Hoyer said as much on Saturday as well: “I’m not going to comment on an on-going negotiation.”
OK, we get it. This thing is going to be kept private. We’ll know the answer to where he’ll play by the end of this week, as he has a Friday deadline or else he’ll play in Japan again next year. If it’s the Cubs, their whole narrative changes.
Because of that secrecy, little is truly known about the offers in front of him or what Tanaka is interested in besides money. There have been conflicting reports on both ends. One report out of Japan said five teams including the Cubs, White Sox, Yankees, Dodgers and Diamondbacks all submitted offers. That much we could have figured out from the beginning, as only the Yankees of those four teams have not spoken publicly about Tanaka in some capacity as of late. But we know they want him.
Going into the weekend one major league source told ESPNChicago.com that the Cubs were willing to go as high as $25 million per year for between 6-8 years. Another source indicated the years were right but the price was lower. Both agreed the Yankees would be the stiffest competition unless the Los Angeles Dodgers blew everyone away at the last minute.
As you can tell, it’s a barren market for information.
If Tanaka signs with the Cubs, too bad the deadline wasn’t last Friday, on Day 1 of the convention. Then the buzz for the weekend could have been enormous. Then again, if he signs with another team it’s probably better it happens this coming week because the convention didn’t need even one less thing to talk about.
Then again, there’s always new mascot Clark the Cub.