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The 7 year $155 million dollar contract that Masahiro Tanaka signed with the Yankees should not be a surprise. Brian Cashman can say that the Yankees want to limit their spending, but in the end the Steinbrenner’s desire to win (and win now) leads to large and often absurd contracts. With the $20 million dollar posting fee including the Yankees committed a whopping $25 million AAV for Tanaka. With this the Yankees are now well above the $189 million luxury tax line and will add to the league high $254 million they have paid in taxes since 2003. Financials aside, what impact does Tanaka’s signing have?
With arguably the best pitcher taken off the market, baseball’s hot stove should start heating up once again. Pitchers such as Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, who have been waiting for Tanaka to sign may now find more suitors among the losers of the Tanaka sweepstakes. Garza may have found a contract already, but the deal looks to be in limbo. The Diamondbacks who did not keep their desire for Tanaka a secret may find Jimenez and Santana to be viable alternatives, but nowhere near the same price. The Twins may make another run at Bronson Arroyo as they have been connected to his name throughout the offseason price may have dropped with the Tanaka signing. As far as position players go, with the Yankees now past the tax threshold they no longer look like a probable suitor for Stephen Drew so his already small market is dwindling further.
Tanaka gives the Yankees a starter with a high-ceiling, but also someone who is relatively unproven. He is not the same pitcher as Yu Darvish who successfully made the transition from Japan to the Majors. Darvish’s fastball regularly sits in the mid-90s while Tanaka tops out at 95 and relies more on his curveball and splitter. This is not to say that Tanaka will not be a good pitcher, but he probably is not a $155 million pitcher. Even with the addition of Tanaka, the Yankees have what seems to be the third best rotation in the AL East. CC Sabathia, who is coming off elbow surgery, is not what he used to be (14-13 4.78 ERA last year) and Kuroda is pushing 40 years old.
Tanaka makes the Yankees a better team and they should compete for a Wild Card spot. Despite the additions to the team this year, with most of the team consisting of aging stars nursing injuries a playoff berth is not a sure thing. The Red Sox and Rays have much stronger rotations and younger cores around them that should help with depth as the natural attrition of the baseball season occurs.
In the end look for Masahiro Tanaka to have a good, but not spectacular, first season in pinstripes. A win total of about 12-15 is not out of the question and his ERA will probably sit around the mid-3s, but in the end it will not be a big enough impact on the tough AL East.