This offseason, one of the hottest topics NOT associated with negative publicity has been the rookie prospect Masahiro Tanaka. After several teams including the Cubs and Diamondbacks were ready to shell out big money to land the 25-year old Japanese sensation, the New York Yankees announced on Wednesday morning that they have inked him to a 7-year, $155 million contract.
This includes an opt-out clause after the 2017 season as well as the $20 million posting fee they were required to pay his former team for acquiring him.
Tanaka, who led the Rakuten Golden Eagles to a Japan Series title last year, was a perfect 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA. He had previously drawn interest from a list of other teams. The Chicago Cubs seemed to be the leading candidate for Tanaka, and had said earlier in the week that they would outbid any team in terms of yearly amount and length of contract. But Tanaka has made his choice and has now signed on to be with the Yankees. He will top off a rotation where he will likely be the number two starter behind CC Sabathia or the number three starter behind Hiroki Kuroda.
With this signing, this will push the Yankees payroll well past $189 million for 2014. Team management said it was a goal to get under that number to take advantage of luxury tax benefits, but it wasn't a mandate. A lower payroll wasn't going to come at the expense of fielding a championship-caliber team.
Tanaka will now join Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran as the newest free agents signings making their debut this year for the Yankees. After a disappointing 2013 season that saw them struggle to get 85 wins, this could be a big chance for them to get back into contention with Boston for the AL East crown.