Masahiro Tanaka is a New York Yankee, and everything in the baseball world is back to normal. So much for all the talk about reducing payroll, as the Yankees followed up one $150+ million contract to Jacoby Ellsbury with another to Tanaka, who gets himself an absolutely monster deal at $155 million over seven years. Tanaka also gets the chance to opt out after four years, so if he dominates over four years, he can cash in yet again at age 29. If he sucks, the Yankees are stuck with a monster deal on the books, which they're well equipped to handle and cover up with more money. The Yankees just paid the same amount of money for Tanaka as they offered Robinson Cano: $175 million.
It's a dream contract for an international pitcher, and very few franchises are in a position to offer up that kind of a deal. The Yankees are back to their free spending ways, and Alex Rodriguez's suspension decision coming down to clear his salary off the books helped them decide to drop massive coin on Tanaka.
I'm not losing any sleep over this one. While I would have loved Tanaka on the Mariners, the advantage in signing an international free agent is that you have a chance to get a bargain out of it if the pitcher is as good as advertised. Tanaka doesn't possess the same upside as Yu Darvish, yet his total cost is going to be over $60 million more. If you include the posting fee, it's the most money spent on a free agent pitching contract ever, the same amount of potentially guaranteed money that the Mariners gave Felix Hernandez when they handed him his $175 million extension. Tanaka's $155 million doesn't include the posting fee, so the total cost of this deal is the same as Felix's deal and just below Verlander's extension. This for a pitcher who hasn't thrown a single pitch in the major leagues.
In a word, it's insane. There's no bargain here, in fact the deal looks completely baffling - not only was Tanaka able to land an MLB market value deal, but he got an opt-out clause too. That makes the deal even worse for the Yankees, who will potentially drop over $100 million through the next four years, then have to hand out another $175 million to keep him at age 29 if he's the star he's supposed to be. Or, they'll pay $175 million for the rights to a pitcher who won't think he'll get more on the open market in 2018. Plus, the Yankees are going to get hammered with the luxury tax. This deal is beyond a premium. It's among the most irresponsible contracts in Major League history, but that's apparently the price commanded for the rarely available free agent about to enter his prime years.
I'm flattened. Blown away. While the Mariners already paid out an insane contract of their own this offseason, they gave it to a truly fantastic player, one who is very likely to continue being a great player for at least several years. Robinson Cano looks pretty attractive compared to Tanaka, who carries far more risk of being a complete zero for a) being a pitcher with questionable mechanics and workload and b) only a scout's guess as to how he'll translate.
Don't get me wrong, Tanaka is probably going to be good or at least solid, and that's why we endorsed him at a far lower cost. He projects as a 3 or 4 win pitcher going forward, and that's essentially what this deal will pay him to do. But as I said before, there has to be a line for a guy who hasn't shown he can do that yet, and the Yankees just took the line and snorted it with million dollar bills. Under a microscope, the deal is justifiable until you remember that he's yet to throw a single pitch against MLB competition.
Missing out on Tanaka sucks, but I wouldn't lose any sleep over this one. While everyone presumed that the offseason would kick back up right after Tanaka signed, now I'm not so sure. Tanaka's deal is so inflated that the demands of Garza, Jimenez, and Santana certainly aren't going down any time soon, and while the clock is ticking towards spring training, they're going to use this deal as leverage towards more money. I don't think they'll be particularly successful in doing so, but I do think it could continue to keep things moving slowly for the near future.