Start spreading the news, New Yorkers.
FOX Sports Insider Ken Rosenthal reports that Japanese starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has agreed to a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees on Wednesday morning.
The Yankees did the right thing by pursuing a potential ace, and here’s why.
Adding a player of Tanaka’s caliber to the rotation greatly bolsters the pitching staff for the Yankees, who were desperate for another starting pitcher. Now, the rotation features Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova. The fifth spot will likely go to a contending in-house pitcher such as Michael Pineda or David Phelps.
The 25-year-old right-hander has been dominant in seven professional seasons with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, compiling a 99-35 record with a 2.30 ERA.
By signing Tanaka the Yankees have filled a huge void at the top of their rotation. While it is still unknown how he will adjust at first to American baseball, Yankee fans have to be excited about having this guy in the rotation.
Critics may question the amount of money they were willing to give a guy who has yet to throw a pitch in the MLB. However, co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner told the AP Press, “we’re going to do what we’ve got to do to win.”
The organization and its scouts obviously have a lot of faith in Tanaka, due in large part to his overwhelming 2013 statistics, where he went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA. He has the ability to be an ace for the Yankees, as he was for the Golden Eagles in Japan.
So, it should come as no surprise that the Yankees opened up the checkbook and wrote Tanaka the fifth-largest contract ever for a pitcher. He has proven that he is an ace, and the Yankees treated him like one by offering him this contract.
The length of the deal—seven years—is another number that initially jumps out at people as too much for a pitcher. Keep in mind, however, that Tanaka is only 25 years old, meaning he will still have some youth toward the end of this contract.
We are still a couple of months away from the start of the regular season, but the Yankees are reloaded and ready to begin their journey to the playoffs.
With the addition of one player, the Yankees have put themselves back into conversation as contenders in the American League East Division. The signings of big-name position players such as Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury may not have meant much without the addition of one more quality starting pitcher for 2014.
One thing that is known heading into the 2014 season is that Tanaka has a bevy of pitches in his arsenal. Ben Badler from Baseball America reports that Tanaka has a splitter that measures 70 on a pitcher scouting scale from 20-80. His slider is another nasty pitch that he can throw in to keep hitters off balance.
At the end of the day, the Yankees have won the bidding war again. In one day, we have seen the Yankees go from an average team with an above-average offense to a playoff-caliber organization.
While the Yankees still have to add to their bullpen in order to become a legitimate championship contender, the Tanaka signing greatly improves the starting rotation.
The Yankees are hungry for the playoffs after missing the postseason in 2013. It will be very interesting to watch where manager Joe Girardi can take this team in 2014.
*Statistics Courtesy of Baseball Reference