Whether Tanaka's game translates to the big leagues after dominating in his homeland remains to be seen. However, one prominent MLB ace has come out and said Tanaka isn't worth such a high price tag: fellow Japanese hurler Yu Darvish.
Per MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan:
Darvish on Masahiro Tanaka: "Darvish: "I don't know too much about the new posting system but I think the Yankees gave him too much."— TR Sullivan (@Sullivan_Ranger) February 18, 2014
Context is everything in these situations, though, and Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com suggested that the Texas Rangers star was laughing when he made his remarks about Tanaka:
Darvish was apparently laughing when he made the Tanaka comments. @espn_durrett is writing a story with full details.— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) February 18, 2014
Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News provided a statement from Darvish after his comments were made public:
Statement from Darvish on Tanaka comments: "I am sorry if anyone took my comment seriously about Masahiro Tanaka.: (1/2)— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) February 18, 2014
Darvish statement Part II: " I assumed by reaction in the room that everyone knew I was joking." .... Reaction has been just silly.— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) February 18, 2014
The two-time MLB All-Star also discussed the influence he and other Japanese pitchers have had on the market, implying that it helped Tanaka land a big payday, per Sullivan:
Darvish also said: " I think Kuroda, Iwakuma and I really helped him as far how the scouts and teams evaluated him."— TR Sullivan (@Sullivan_Ranger) February 18, 2014
The Rangers ace also mentioned the posting system, which essentially involves a transfer fee from Japan. Tanaka's former team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, were to be paid a $20 million posting fee by the Yankees as part of the acquisition, per Marchand's report on the contract.
Aaron Gleeman of NBC Sports' Hardball Talk points out how the Rangers sent Darvish's former team in Japan $51.7 million in posting fees to bring him over from Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league.
Darvish arrived in the MLB in 2012 and took little time to establish himself as one of the top pitchers in the league. This past year, he even finished as the runner-up for the American League Cy Young Award.
The right-handed Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA with the Golden Eagles this past season, which had Yankees scouts convinced in his abilities to pay him such a hefty salary.
As unfair as his contract may seem, there is plenty of time for Tanaka to prove his worth in pinstripes. The exorbitant contract shouldn't come as a huge shock either, considering the Yankees are consistently putting together superstar-laden rosters with massive payrolls in an effort to return to the Fall Classic.
With the disparity between the contract Darvish has—$56 million over six years, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts—and the deal Tanaka inked, one could reason that Darvish wasn't entirely joking. However, considering his swift denial and the fact that both pitchers were teammates in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, it's unlikely that Darvish meant anything by it.
Either way, it will be interesting to see if Tanaka responds to Darvish's comments, and long-term, whether he lives up to expectations in the 2014 MLB season.