Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Masahiro Tanaka has agreed to sign a seven year, $155 Million contract – ending week’s of presumptuous anticipation as the baseball world has waited for word on where he’ll sign – with the New York Yankees, the very team favored all along to land him. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal broke the news Wednesday morning, adding in word that Tanaka’s deal contained an opt-out clause after the fourth year of the deal.
By this point Tanaka’s fairly well known by fans of Major League Baseball as he’s been the talk of the offseason. The 25 year old has spent the past seven seasons pitching for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japanese Pacific League. His 2013 season was just simply off the charts impressive as he went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA, 0.943 WHIP, and nearly a strikeout per inning (183 in 212 IP). He’d help lead the Eagles to their first NPB Championship, throwing a 160 pitch complete game before returning the next day to toss a perfect inning of relief.
For his career in Japan he’s 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA and 1.108 WHIP.
Tanaka receives the fifth highest contract ever given to a pitcher (following only the deals given to Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, and C.C. Sabathia) and marks yet another high-priced acquisition by the Yankees this winter following the team’s signings of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. The team had already spent heavily to try and improve an offense that will be without Robinson Cano at second base, but the pitching staff remained a significant question mark before this deal became official. Tanaka helps extend a respectable Yankees rotation that will also include Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova. Who slides into that last spot still remains in the air.
Tanaka landing with the Yankees doesn’t necessarily affect the Boston Red Sox directly beyond potentially changing how the two teams’ pitching staffs lineup. Boston was never truly “in” on Tanaka, so there is no sense of defeat that he’d land with the division rivals. Boston also isn’t in need of starting pitching like the Yankees were/are, so there’s little chance of the team making a rash move in response (see: Yankees signing of Kei Igawa in response to the Red Sox’ signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka). Boston’s starting depth wins out once again.
While he projects to be a star-caliber starter in the Major Leagues, there are still questions facing Tanaka. How quickly will he adapt? How well will he adapt? How will teams fare once they start to see him a second or third time around? Many scouts rave about his talents, particularly his sinking fastball, but there are also others who caution that he isn’t better than Yu Darvish.