Rounding Third: In Tanaka, Yanks get their man


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Updated: 1/22 11:16 am Published: 1/22 11:16 am


Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Yankees went into the offseason with the hope that they'd have a payroll less than $189 million for the 2014 season.

Instead, they have spent nearly a half billion dollars this winter.

Any hope the Yankees may have had of getting under that luxury tax threshold went by the wayside on Wednesday when it was learned they were the big winners in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes, signing the Japanese right-hander to a 7- year, $155 million deal.

Actually the deal, which was first reported by Fox Sports, is for $175 million when you add in the $20 million posting fee. There is an opt-out clause after four years.

For those keeping score, it's also the same contract they offered a certain second baseman who eventually signed in Seattle.

But, even with the high-priced signings of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and even Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees still lacked another top-of- the-rotation starter to pair with CC Sabathia.

Despite how active they were, the Yankees' whole offseason has always been centered on getting Tanaka.

So just who is Masahiro Tanaka?

Well, he went an astonishing 24-0 last season with a 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeouts against 32 walks in 212 innings over 28 games (27 starts) for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan's Pacific League.

In seven professional seasons, all with the Golden Eagles, Tanaka has posted a 99-35 mark and 2.30 ERA in 175 games -- all but three as a starter -- while fanning 1,238 batters in 1,315 innings.

Even more remarkable is that he is 53-9 over his past three seasons with a 1.44 ERA and 593 strikeouts over 611 1/3 innings.

Tanaka may not be as much of a power pitcher as Texas' Yu Darvish, but he does throw a fastball in the mid-90s. He lives and dies with his split-fingered fastball and couples that with an above-average slider.

Maybe it was the new posting system but a lot of teams wanted a piece of Tanaka. In fact, it's believed the Yankees weren't the only team to offer him over $150 million.

And why not, he's only 25.

Of course, the Yankees haven't had much luck dealing with Japanese pitchers in the past. Hideki Irabu, perhaps the most hyped Japanese pitcher until Tanaka, turned out to be a complete bust and their other pitching import, Kei Igawa, well, he won two games in the majors and is the Scranton Yankees' all-time wins leader.

But, then again, Hideki Matsui is one of the more revered Yankees in recent history.

As powerful as the Yankees lineup may look, there are still a ton of question marks surrounding their rotation even with Tanaka on board, because, let's face it, we have no idea how his transition to the U.S. game will go.

Plus there are an awful lot of innings in that young right arm.

Then there's Sabathia, who is coming off the worst season of his career. Kuroda will be 39 at the start of the season and Ivan Nova is still a mystery. The hope is that Michael Pineda will be the team's fifth starter, but he hasn't pitched in a big league game since 2011.

So, yes, Tanaka is more than just a luxury for the Yankees. They may need him to be their ace. Or at worst a No. 2.

The question is, now that the Yankees have obliterated their $189 million goal, do they now just keep spending? There's reason to believe they wouldn't. And there are a few good starting pitchers left. Would anyone be surprised if the Yankees now make a run at Matt Garza or Bronson Arroyo?

Did anyone really think the Yankees were going to trim payroll anyway?


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