The MLB offseason has been a wild one thus far with plenty of big names switching locales, but perhaps the most intriguing free agent of all was Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka. The potential superstar is on the market no longer, though, as he has agreed to a seven-year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
BREAKING: Tanaka to #Yankees, seven years, $155M, opt-out after fourth year.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 22, 2014
Predictably, Tanaka's signing has sparked plenty of reaction throughout the sports world. That would have been the case regardless of which team he signed with, but the fact that he has decided to join the Yankees, who are either beloved or reviled by most, makes things even more interesting.
There is no better platform from which to get instant reaction than Twitter, and it has been buzzing with plenty of opinions since the news officially broke.
Not surprisingly, skepticism is rampant. It is no secret that several high-profile Japanese pitchers have failed to transition well to the MLB in the past, and Brian Sinkoff of 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio fears that Tanaka will join that group as well.
Masahiro Tanaka agrees to 7-year, $155 million deal with Yanks. I'm not sold on Japanese pitchers. For every Yu, there are 5 Igawa's.— Brian Sinkoff (@BrianSinkoff) January 22, 2014
Some, such as Michael Spellman of ESPN Radio in Utica, N.Y., are simply hopeful that the Yanks made the right decision.
Reports saying Masahiro Tanaka has agreed to deal with Yankees. Yanks needed a frontline guy more than anyone else, lets hope Tanaka is one— Michael Spellman (@mspellman_wutr) January 22, 2014
The Yankees have received mixed reviews for their offseason thus far as second baseman Robinson Cano signed with the Seattle Mariners, but they also managed to bring in outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran as well as catcher Brian McCann.
Securing a potential ace like Tanaka prompted Adam Schein of SNY to praise Yankees general manager Brian Cashman for a job well done.
What a fantastic off-season for Brian Cashman and the Yankees.— Adam Schein (@AdamSchein) January 22, 2014
Naturally, there has also been a lot of speculation regarding how well Tanaka will translate from Japan to the United States. As seen in this graphic courtesy of SportsCenter, the 25-year-old pitcher was essentially unhittable during the 2013 season in Japan.
Newest Yankee Masahiro Tanaka absolutely DOMINATED in Japan as a 25-year-old last year. » pic.twitter.com/p0owMJpV4L— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 22, 2014
At the same time, Tanaka enters the major leagues with more tread on his tires than predecessors like Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka, per ESPN Stats and Info, so it stands to reason that durability could be a concern.
In addition to facts and figures, Twitter is always a great place to find a few wisecracks. The year-long suspension of third baseman Alex Rodriguez will save the Yankees some money during the upcoming season, and it was likely a contributing factor in terms of allowing the organization to pursue Tanaka.
With that in mind, Richard Dietsch of Sports Illustrated joked that the Yanks should give Tanaka A-Rod's No. 13.
Really rooting for the Yankees to assign Masahiro Tanaka A-Rod's jersey number.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) January 22, 2014
When it comes to baseball, there is no greater pressure than playing for the Yankees. Some players find that difficult to deal with, and Andrew Hirsh of the Forsyth County News made light of the situation with a tongue-in-cheek tweet.
At least Tanaka will have the chance to adjust to North America in the calm, welcoming environment of New York City.— Andrew Hirsh (@andrewhirsh) January 22, 2014
Perhaps more than anything else, people have marveled at how much the Yankees spent on Tanaka and throughout the offseason in general. As pointed out by ESPN's Kevin Negandhi, the Bronx Bombers have shelled out nearly a half-billion dollars over the past couple months.
If you include Tanaka's posting fee..The Yankees have spent $491 million dollars this offseason on free agents..— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) January 22, 2014
Tanaka's contract dwarfs what the Texas Rangers gave Darvish a couple years ago, and it is actually the largest investment ever in a free-agent pitcher, per ESPN's Buster Olney.
Tanaka gets $99 million more in his deal than Yu Darvish w/TEX. Yankees' expenditure ($175m -- salary, posting) largest ever for FA pitcher.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 22, 2014
As asinine as it may seem to some for a team to give that much money to a player who has never played in the big leagues, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports argues that it is a wise investment due to Tanaka's age.
best thing about tanaka, besides 24-0 in '13, is he just turned 25. so yanks get him for ages 25-28, maybe 29 30 31 #prime— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 22, 2014
There is plenty of resentment among fans of other teams since the Yankees, perennial big spenders, outbid their competitors again for a top-notch free agent. But Rob Parker of Local 4 News in Detroit argues that it shouldn't influence opinions of Tanaka as a player.
I get it. Most hate the Yanks bcuz they've done so much winning. But for some fans to say Tanaka is a bum cuz he pitched in Japan is silly.— Rob Parker (@RobParkerLocal4) January 22, 2014
Will this signing work out for the Yankees?
It's nearly impossible to say how well or poorly this signing will work out for the Yankees moving forward, but it will unquestionably be one of the biggest storylines in baseball over the next couple years.
If Tanaka is as good as or better than Darvish, then pursuit of Japanese players will grow even more. If Tanaka busts, though, clubs may pause before going all in.
The Tanaka signing is clearly one of the most significant in Yankees history, and regardless of how it ultimately pays off, the Yanks have people talking once again.
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