Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Great Unknown

Masahiro Tanaka made his decision on Wednesday, and will play in the Bronx. And for the next seven seasons as well.

The Yankees and Tanaka reached agreement on a 7-year, $155 million deal, with an opt-out clause after four years.

My first reaction: this contract is totally insane.

And I'm glad the Red Sox aren't the ones giving it to him.

Tanaka was 24-0 last season for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013. Impressive? Sure. But it was done in Japan, which is really like AAAA baseball (in-between AAA and MLB in America). I just don't see giving a seven-year deal, worth on average over $22 million per year (including the $20 million they have to pay the Japanese club) to a guy who has yet to throw a pitch in MLB.

Obviously the Yankees are doing this to bring Japanese fans into the ballpark and increase TV ratings, which will both happen for sure in 2014. The state of New York's pitching rotation meant that hey had to make some kind of big splash, and there wasn't a pitcher on the market this winter who was going to do that for them. They had to overpay, as they have an almost barren farm system, and were not going to make the playoffs without making a signing like this.

I'm glad the Red Sox did not get into a bidding war with New York over Tanaka. This is precisely the type of contract that got the Sox in trouble three years ago. But at least those onerous deals (Crawford, Beckett and Gonzalez) were for established MLB stars. Right now you have no idea what Masahiro Tanaka will turn out to be. Japanese players have had mixed success in the US. Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui had great success here, Hideo Nomo, Yu Darvish and Koji Uehara have been very good, but does anyone remember the hype when the Yankees signed Hideki Irabu? Or Kei Igawa? Their track record with Japanese pitchers leaves something to be desired.

Time will tell on Tanaka.

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