Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Yankees Win Tanaka Sweepstakes

So much for that $189 million threshold.

The Yankees who have been unapologetic about spending big money this off-season have once again come out winners of the off-season, this time coming to terms with Japanese flame-thrower Masahiro Tanaka.

The Yankees agreed to pay Tanaka $155 million over seven years, with an opt-out clause after four seasons. The Yankees will also pay Tanaka's former team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, $20 million just for the right to talk to him.

What began as an off-season where the Yankees were planning to pinch pennies in order to stay below $189 million in the salary cap has instead seen the Yankees do what they do best: spend. The Yankees have spend $491 million in contracts this winter. Not including in all of this is the $25 million New York saves after Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the season by Major League Baseball.

The Yankees felt the need to acquire Tanaka because the club's rotation has been thin at best. Outside of CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees have nothing but question marks regarding the likes of Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and David Phelps.

New York could have gone a cheaper rout and taped someone like a Bronson Arroyo, who would have been a solid number three starter for a couple of years. Instead, the Yankees went all in on a guy who has never pitched in the Major Leagues.

This is not to say Tanaka doesn't come with a pedegree. He went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan last year. But the way the game is played, is a tad different in the Land of the Rising Sun than it is in the United States.

The Yankees have gone all out for Japanese pitchers before. They spent big money for guys like Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa and came up snake eyes each time. Kuroda, was a free agent, who had already spent a number of years pitching in the Majors before he joined the Yankees three years ago.

The one advantage that Tanaka has that Igawa and Irabu didn't have when they came to New York is the fact the Yankees have a couple Japanese players already on the team. Kuroda and aging All Star Ichiro Suzuki are on this 2014 Yankees squad. They will take Tanaka under their wing and groom him for the transition to the Majors and the USA.

Having a Japanese veteran presence was something Irabu and Igawa did not have when they arrived in New York.

Anyone expecting Tanaka to put up big numbers this year better take it easy. It's a big transition that Japanese pitchers make when they come to America. Even Kuroda had a really rough transition when he signed with the Dodgers in 2008. He didn't put it together until he came to New York in 2012.

While the Yankees look like early winners here, let's see if Tanaka is the real deal before we crown this move.

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