The Yankees agreed to terms with Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka on Wednesday after sending a delegation to meet with him and his agent Casey Close on January 8th. The deal is rumored to be worth $155 million over 7 years, which does not include the $20 million posting fee the Yankees have to pay to Tanaka’s Japanese club. The addition addresses a glaring hole in the Yankees rotation with a player that has received acclaim from writers, owners and scouts alike.
Last season while playing for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese Pacific League, Tanaka posted a 1.27 ERA with a perfect 24-0 record. He also struck out 183 and walked only 32 in 212 innings pitched.
The Yankees now find themselves with four starting pitching spots locked up with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Tanaka. David Phelps, Michael Pineda and Vidal Nuno will battle for the fifth spot in spring training. If the Yankees didn’t want all of their previous signings to go to waste, a bold move to strengthen the starting rotation was essential.
However, with the happiness of signing such a big name pitcher comes apprehension from Yankee fans. Too recently has the organization been burned by contracts with other Japanese pitchers such as Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa. This is despite the fact that Tanaka has gotten more hype than either of these two pitchers.
The other concern was the amount of money that was given to Tanaka. An AAV of $21.2 million puts Tanaka as the eighth highest player in the league, despite not yet throwing a pitch in the majors. However, if the Yankees were going to make a splash (and go past their $189 million goal), Tanaka was the guy to sign. Pitchers like Matt Garza and Ervin Santana, who have visible flaws, also have far less upside than Tanaka and would have commanded large contracts as well.
The bottom line: if the Yankees’ brass is serious about putting a winning product on the field, this was a move that needed to be made.