Was anyone surprised? Duh, no, it’s the Yankees.
Early today, it was announced that Masahiro Tanaka signed a massive contract with (who else, but) the New York Yankees, for 7 years and $155 million. The Yankees beat out the likes of the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Arizona Diamondbacks for the Japanese stud.
But what can we take away from this deal? There are 3 parties here to look at.
Yes, he had a sparkling 24-0 record in Japan this past season. Yes, his numbers are mind-boggling. But most Japanese pitchers weren’t as successful in the States as they were in Japan. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa, both highly sought after, flamed out rather quickly. Hiroki Kuroda took a couple of years in Los Angeles’ friendly pitcher environment to really get going. There will always be exceptions to the rule, like Yu Darvish or Hisashi Iwakuma, but you can never bet on that happening. The transition is always a question mark. That being said, Tanaka is the big winner of this deal. $22M approximate average annual value for 7 years, to throw a baseball in front of many bordering-on-depression Yankee fans? That’s enough money to buy earplugs or language barriers or other excuses to ignore the ravenous New York media. Sure, the Yankees are paying him for what should be the prime of his career, but we don’t know what his prime would translate to in the AL, let alone the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. But the point for Tanaka, is that the Yankees are paying him top dollar.
New York Yankees
Starting pitching was a big issue for the Yankees last year, with Andy Pettitte being the most consistent pitcher with the team (aaaaaaand he’s gone). The Yankees rotation, now outside Tanaka, includes CC Sabathia, coming off his worst statistical year of his career, the aforementioned Hiroki Kuroda, who showed lots of wear and tear toward the end of last year, and Ivan Nova, who’s rather inconsistent. The last spot now is a dog-fight among several unproven talents, like Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and a kitchen sink. But then again, signing virtually any serviceable starter is a good move for any franchise. Now, will it help them make their way back to the playoffs? Arguable. Tanaka only impacts the games he pitches, which would max out around 32, provided a seamless transition and perfect health. If he’s as good as advertised, he can definitely help the Yankees more than anyone else currently in their “system”.
The rest of MLB
First, and foremost, no one else could reap the benefit of Tanaka besides the Yankees. Second, the Yankees are not entirely incompetent anymore in the AL East. Expect a decent showing from the Bombers.
However, that’s not all that will happen. The ripple effect from this signing will finally open up the gate for the market of starting pitchers. Guys like Bronson Arroyo, Ubaldo Jiminez, Matt Garza, and other big-name starters on the market will finally bring in some money and a place to call home, likely to teams who lost out on the Tanaka sweepstakes. That will be the biggest immediate impact that Tanaka will have on MLB.
The race is over, and I guess the Cubs didn’t outbid everyone like they said they would, and the Dodgers let the Yankees be the Yankees for a change. We all saw this coming. No one is surprised that this signing happened. Now all that’s left to see is where the remaining pitchers will land, and what Tanaka does in pinstripes.