Breaking Down Yankees Signing of Masahiro Tanaka

23 Jan

The New York Yankees made the move they had to make.

The team signed Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka to a 7-year $155 million dollar contract with a player opt-out clause after the 4th year. That’s almost equivalent to the contract Zack Greinke signed with the Dodgers in December of 2012. Greinke’s contract was for 6-years and $147 million dollars. The bottom line is the Yankees paid Masahiro Tanaka a ton of money to come pitch in New York. Here’s my breakdown of the Yankees signing of Masahiro Tanaka:

You Just Never Know

This is the risk teams take when they commit millions upon millions of dollars to bring a Japanese star to the United States. The reality is you just never know.

As easily as Tanaka could be the next Yu Darvish and be a perennial Cy Young candidate year in and year out, he could just as easily be the second coming of the last name Yankees fans want to hear. Kei Igawa.

The Yankees paid $46 million dollars to Igawa prior to the 2007 season and he was a flat out bust in every sense of the word. He lasted less than 2 seasons and appeared in 16 games. In those 16 games, Igawa was 2-4 with a 6.66 ERA.

Even take a player like Hideki Matsui. Matsui was the equivalent to Michael Jordan in Japan and the expectations for him with the Yankees were through the roof. Matsui turned out to a very good player, but never at any point was one of the best.

Last season in Japan, Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA. A season like that would be historic for a pitcher in America. The Japanese game though is significantly different from the American game.

In Japan, pitchers pitch once every 7 days. In America, its once every 5 days. The Yankees don’t have the slightest clue about how Tanaka’s arm will react to that change.

Yankees Had No Choice

In order to have a chance to be competitive in 2014, the Yankees had no choice but to do whatever it took to bring Masahrio Tanaka to the Bronx.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding him, Tanaka was the best pitcher on the market, and the biggest Yankees weakness was starting pitching. The team lost Andy Pettitte to retirement, and Phil Hughes to the Twins.

Hiroki Kuroda will be 39 when the 2014 season begins, CC Sabathia appears to be breaking down due to his heavy innings counts, and Ivan Nova still struggles with consistency. The Yankees are still holding up hope Michael Pineda can turn out to be SOMETHING.

Pineda has not appeared in a game for the team since being acquired from the Mariners in exchange for Jesus Montero. The hope the Yankees had in the farm system has also disappeared. Remember the Killer B’s?

Well, Andrew Brackman is no longer with the organization, Dellin Betances has been regulated to the bullpen, and Manny Banuelos continues to recover from Tommy John Surgery.

The Yankees were out of options, except for Tanaka, which is why the move had to be made.

Will They Ever Rebuild?

The New York Yankees organization simply refuses to rebuild. Rebuilding entails going through several losing seasons in order to re-stock the farm system which would in turn position the Yankees to make another long sustained run.

Losing is not an option. Just look at the last 2 times the Yankees missed the playoffs. Following the 2008 season where the team missed the post-season for the first time since 1993, the Yankees spent $423 million dollars to acquire Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and AJ Burnett.

Then this off-season, the Yankees have spent $465 million dollars acquiring Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and now Tanaka. When the Yankees were a dynasty from the mid-1990s to early 2000s, it was the result of some really bad years in the early ’90s.

It was during that time the Yankees developed players such as Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, all players who played significant roles on 4 World Series Championships in a 5-year span.

If the team was operating then the way it is now, Mariano Rivera would likely have been traded. In the spring of 1996, the Yankees were seriously considering trading Rivera for a shortstop by the name of Felix Ferman. As crazy as it sounds, the Yankees were uncomfortable starting rookie Derek Jeter at shortstop to start the season, and were willing to trade Rivera.

As it turned out, 1996 was Fermin’s last in the Major Leagues. He appeared in just 11 games that year and never played in the big leagues again.

It may serve the Yankees well to have some bad years so the team can bring in some talent into what is a non-existent farm system instead of spending crazy amounts of money just to remain somewhat competitive. But will Hal Steinbrenner ever allow it?

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Posted by on 01/23/2014 in MLB


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