Masahiro Tanaka Makes New York Yankees World Series Contenders

David CattaiContributor IIIJanuary 23, 2014

Masahiro Tanaka makes the New York Yankees a serious World Series contender in 2014.
Masahiro Tanaka makes the New York Yankees a serious World Series contender in 2014.Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

The New York Yankees made headlines on Wednesday when they announced the signing of Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka for $155 million over seven years.

The significance of the signing is not that the Yankees placed themselves over the $189 million luxury tax threshold, but rather that signing Tanaka makes the Bronx Bombers a legitimate contender for the World Series.

Preseason predictions always come with caution, especially with the chance of players getting injured over the course of the season. Let's say that the Yankees stay healthy, however. They will then be in serious consideration for the World Series.

Tanaka has yet to throw a pitch in the majors, but he is confident he will succeed in New York. The young right-hander spoke to Hiroko Tabuchi of The New York Times on Wednesday about why he decided to sign with the Yankees:

“I’m going there to win the World Series. I can’t wait to get to the pitcher’s mound at Yankees Stadium.”

Adding Tanaka gives the Yankees a starting rotation that will match up well with anyone. CC Sabathia posted a picture on his Instagram that shows how effective his offseason weight training has gone. A healthy Sabathia will help him return to his Cy Young form in 2014. Tanaka and Sabathia give the Yankees a strong one-two punch at the front of the rotation.

The Yankees also have depth in their rotation. Hiroki Kuroda is coming off another great season, numbers-wise. Ivan Nova has great stuff, better than most pitchers slated in the No. 4 spot in the rotation. David Phelps threw well despite splitting time between the rotation and in the bullpen. And don't forget about Michael Pineda, who didn't throw a pitch in the majors last year as he was rehabbing an injury.

That's six strong starting pitchers, all of whom throw hard and have quality secondary pitches. The Yankees rotation will be able to match up with the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and others.

Their lineup has vastly improved since 2013 as well.

Now that Robinson Cano is in Seattle and Alex Rodriguez is suspended for the entire 2014 season, the Yankees are able to figure out what direction they would like to go in. That direction is complementing their offense.

The Yankees were able to fill multiple voids in their lineup. They signed Brian Roberts to play second base, Brian McCann to start behind the plate and Jacoby Ellsbury to anchor their outfield. They also balanced their lineup by signing Carlos Beltran to play right field and split time as the designated hitter, which is something that manager Joe Girardi likes to do with his older players.

Brian McCann brings left-handed power to the Yankees lineup.
Brian McCann brings left-handed power to the Yankees lineup.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Add those four players to a healthy Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner, and New York now has a lineup that encompasses three key facets: speed, consistency and power.

Their bench also provides some depth, giving the Yankees the ability to play the numbers and platoon players such as Ichiro Suzuki, Alfonso Soriano and Kelly Johnson in the field.

Letting Cano walk may have been the best thing to happen to New York this offseason. They now have a strong starting rotation, a complete lineup and the depth throughout the roster that will make the Yankees strong contenders for the World Series in 2014.