Finally, the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes came to end, and let’s be honest: We’re not all the surprised with the result.
The New York Yankees continued their offseason spending spree by landing Tanaka on a whopping seven-year, $155 million deal.
Sure, the Japanese import was 24-0 last season, but we have to remember that it was in the Japanese league, not the MLB.
Still, looking at the Yankees’ starting five before adding Tanaka, the Bronx Bombers were desperate to add another arm. And when the Yanks are desperate, the money flows.
After C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees were banking on Ivan Nova, an injury-prone Michael Pineda and some combination of David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren.
Naturally -- at least on paper -- the name “Tanaka” instantly adds a bit more credibility to the starting rotation. Even with the new potent lineup that includes Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and the healthy return of Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter, the Yankees will need length from their starters since the bullpen is looking shaky, especially with the retirement of Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all-time.
But as desperate as the team was for pitching, that’s a whole lot of money for a pitcher that has never thrown a big league pitch.
Of course, the Tanaka sweepstakes was more about keeping him away from rivals. The Yankees didn’t want him to go to the Red Sox; the Angels didn’t want him to go to the Mariners; the Diamondbacks didn’t want him to go to the Dodgers; etc.
The Cubs and Diamondbacks desperately wanted -- and needed -- Tanaka, but they were no match for the Yankees.
This signing is a huge risk, and let’s put it in perspective by comparing the numbers to another talented young right hander: Felix Hernandez.
Prior to the 2013 season, Hernandez, 26 at the time, signed a seven-year, $175 million contract to remain with the Seattle Mariners. He had already pitched seven full seasons, earned three All-Star nods and won a Cy Young in 2010. He also made at least 30 starts in each of these full seasons.
Meanwhile, as we’ve established, Tanaka has not thrown a pitch in the majors. Yet, if we include the $20 million posting fee to the Rakuten Golden Eagles, the full value of the contract for Tanaka becomes seven years and $175 million.
Quite the coincidence, don’t you think?
Hernandez had the pedigree of a proven big league ace at the time he signed his contract. Tanaka pitched seven full seasons in Japan and posted a 99-35 record with a 2.30 ERA. But good luck having that sort of success in the American game.
Recently, we’ve seen Japanese imports Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Tanaka’s new teammate Kuroda have success at the big league level.
But then again, there have been just as many busts coming over from Japan. You would have thought the Yankees would have learned from the Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa experiments. They sure hope Tanaka eventually gets compared to Darvish, Iwakuma and Kuroda rather than Irabu and Igawa.
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