Masahiro Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA this past season in Japan.
(Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Yankees went into the
offseason with the hope that they'd have a payroll less than $189 million for
the 2014 season.
Instead, they have spent nearly a half billion dollars this winter.
Any hope the Yankees may have had of getting under that luxury tax threshold
went by the wayside on Wednesday when it was learned they were the big winners
in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes, signing the Japanese right-hander to a 7-year, $155 million deal.
Actually the deal, which was first reported by Fox Sports, is for $175 million
when you add in the $20 million posting fee. There is an opt-out clause after
For those keeping score, it's also the same contract they offered a certain
second baseman who eventually signed in Seattle.
But, even with the high-priced signings of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann,
Carlos Beltran and even Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees still lacked another top-of-
the-rotation starter to pair with CC Sabathia.
Despite how active they were, the Yankees' whole offseason has always been
centered on getting Tanaka.
So just who is Masahiro Tanaka?
Well, he went an astonishing 24-0 last season with a 1.27 ERA and 183
strikeouts against 32 walks in 212 innings over 28 games (27 starts) for the
Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan's Pacific League.
In seven professional seasons, all with the Golden Eagles, Tanaka has posted a
99-35 mark and 2.30 ERA in 175 games -- all but three as a starter -- while
fanning 1,238 batters in 1,315 innings.
Even more remarkable is that he is 53-9 over his past three seasons with a
1.44 ERA and 593 strikeouts over 611 1/3 innings.
Tanaka may not be as much of a power pitcher as Texas' Yu Darvish, but he does
throw a fastball in the mid-90s. He lives and dies with his split-fingered
fastball and couples that with an above-average slider.
Maybe it was the new posting system but a lot of teams wanted a piece of
Tanaka. In fact, it's believed the Yankees weren't the only team to offer him
over $150 million.
And why not, he's only 25.
Of course, the Yankees haven't had much luck dealing with Japanese pitchers in
the past. Hideki Irabu, perhaps the most hyped Japanese pitcher until Tanaka,
turned out to be a complete bust and their other pitching import, Kei Igawa,
well, he won two games in the majors and is the Scranton Yankees' all-time wins
But, then again, Hideki Matsui is one of the more revered Yankees in recent
As powerful as the Yankees lineup may look, there are still a ton of question
marks surrounding their rotation even with Tanaka on board, because, let's face
it, we have no idea how his transition to the U.S. game will go.
Plus there are an awful lot of innings in that young right arm.
Then there's Sabathia, who is coming off the worst season of his career. Kuroda
will be 39 at the start of the season and Ivan Nova is still a mystery. The
hope is that Michael Pineda will be the team's fifth starter, but he hasn't
pitched in a big league game since 2011.
So, yes, Tanaka is more than just a luxury for the Yankees. They may need him
to be their ace. Or at worst a No. 2.
The question is, now that the Yankees have obliterated their $189 million
goal, do they now just keep spending? There's reason to believe they wouldn't.
And there are a few good starting pitchers left. Would anyone be surprised if
the Yankees now make a run at Matt Garza or Bronson Arroyo?
Did anyone really think the Yankees were going to trim payroll anyway?
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