Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka has signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees. In addition, the Yankees will provide the Rakuten Golden Eagles a $20 million posting fee. In 2013, Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA with the Golden Eagles leading them to the Japan World Series title.
Tanaka had been the subject of a bidding war between several clubs including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs and the Yankees. I’m sure being on the same team with Ichiro Suzuki was appealing to Tanaka. But money talks. His contract with the Yankees makes Tanaka the fifth highest paid pitcher in MLB history. Only Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and new Yankees teammate C.C. Sabathia earn more than Tanaka. While Kershaw, Verlander, King Felix and Sabathia are Cy Young winners, Tanaka has never thrown a pitch in the major leagues.
Now it’s entirely possible that Tanaka could very well be in the class of Kershaw, Verlander, King Felix and Sabathia. Tanaka could acquit himself as well as Yu Darvish has done with the Texas Rangers over the past two seasons. On the other hand, the Yankees could have another Kei Igawa on their hands? Or perhaps the late Hideki Irabu? The Yankees haven’t had the best track record with Japanese pitchers (although Hiroki Kuroda has been dependable).
Most likely Tanaka will fall somewhere in between. Well, kind of like Kuroda. There’s nothing wrong with being Hiroki Kuroda. But Yankees fans are expecting a 24-0 season, not Hiroki Kuroda.
Let me put it another way. If I am Ubaldo Jimenez, Bronson Arroyo or Matt Garza then I am annoyed if Tanaka is another Kuroda. I would be annoyed at being ignored despite having a proven resume while teams are falling all over themselves trying to sign an unknown quantity.