Masahiro Tanaka, the 25-year-old Japanese phenom starting pitcher, agreed to terms with the New York Yankees on Wednesday, signing a contract that will pay him $155 million over seven years, according to a report from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. The contract, which will make Tanaka the fifth-highest paid pitcher in all of baseball, also contains an opt-out clause after four seasons.
The New York Yankees will also have to pay a $20 million posting fee to the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan, Tanaka’s former team.
Tanaka’s deal effectively blows the doors off of [co-owners] Hank and Hal Steinbrenner’s $189 million plan to get the team under the luxury tax threshold. Instead, the Yankees will add an ace to a rotation that already includes C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova. With the addition of Tanaka, the Yankees believe they now have the perfect pitcher to anchor their rotation for the next several years. It was for that reason that the $189 million plan went out the window, Hank told the Associated Press after the signing.
"There has been criticism of myself and my brother the last couple years that, gee, if our dad was still in charge, we'd be spending this and spending that and doing whatever it takes to win," Hank Steinbrenner said, referring to late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
"He didn't have revenue sharing, at least for most of his time," Steinbrenner added. "That's what these people in the sports media don't seem to get. If it wasn't for revenue sharing, we'd have a payroll of $300 million a year if we wanted to. So we're doing this despite having to pay all that revenue sharing."
Tanaka's talent is undeniable, and he should translate well to the United States as a pitcher much like Kuroda. Here's an excerpt from a scouting report from Baseball America's Ben Badler on the 25-year-old right-hander:
When Masahiro Tanaka is at his best, he has three pitches that deserve 60 or better grades on the 20-80 scouting scale. There’s the fastball that reaches the mid-90s, a vanishing splitter and a slider that gives away from righthanded hitters.
Throw in above-average control, the ability to maintain his stuff deep into games and an extensive track record of dominance in Japan and it’s easy to see why so many teams view him as an immediate top-of-the-rotation starter.
That dominance in Japan was indeed unmatched. Over seven seasons playing in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, Tanaka posted a 99-35 career record and a 2.30 ERA. This past season was by far his most dominant, as he went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 28 games.
In order to make room for Tanaka on the Yankees' 40-man roster, left-handed pitcher David Huff was designated for assignment.