Masahiro Tanaka agreed to a 7 year deal worth 155 million dollars with the New York Yankees, and the contract has an opt-out clause after 4 years. The deal for the Japanese star is the 5th highest contract in baseball history for a starting pitcher behind Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, and C.C. Sabathia. Tanaka pitched for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013 and went 24-0 with a 1.27 earned run average.
I feel the New York Yankees were going to outbid anyone no matter what it took. The Yankees beat out the Cubs, White Sox, and Dodgers to get a piece they desperately needed. Tanaka joins Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova, and Phelps in the Yankees rotation. The additions the Yankees have made this offseason have all been upgrades on the offensive end with signings of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. The Yankees had to make a big sign for a starting pitcher, because they have question marks in their starting rotation. Sabathia is coming off his worst season with the Yankees as he had a 4.78 earned run average. Kuroda had a strong first half of 2013 but struggled in the final two months. He is also entering his age 39 season. Nova has shown glimpses of being a strong starter but has not been consistent. Phelps will compete for a starting job along with Michael Pineda, who is trying to come back from a torn labrum. The Yankees are no doubt taking a risk on a player who has never thrown a pitch in the big leagues, but Tanaka could be a huge part of an organization that is trying to get back to the postseason.
Another huge part of this signing is how the change of the posting system for Japanese players affected the contract of the player. The MLB and the NPB ( Nippon Professional Baseball) agreed that the max a team can pay a Japanese team to release their player is 20 million dollars. In the past, teams tried to outbid other teams no matter the cost. The Red Sox paid a 51.11 million dollar posting fee for Daisuke Matsuzaka, and the Rangers paid 51.7 million dollars to talk to Yu Darvish. After the fees, Matsuzaka received a 52 million dollar contract for 6 years and Yu Darvish received a 6 year contract worth 60 million dollars. There is no question that the new posting system will allow Japanese pitchers to earn millions more for the same amount of years.
It will be very interesting to see what this Tanaka deal does for future free agent pitchers. If a guy who has never pitched in the big leagues before gets a deal for 155 million, what will a CY winning pitcher get like Max Scherzer and David Price? Time will tell but there is no doubt the Yankees are one of the biggest winners of this offseason.