Masahiro Tanaka will make a decision this week as to where he will gear up for his inaugural MLB season and the New York Yankees are by no means the clear favorites. Reports last week claimed the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite signing Clayton Kershaw to the most expensive contract for a pitcher in history, are among the teams that will make a serious offer to the Japanese pitcher. The price for Tanaka was thought to begin around five years and $100 million, however, formal offers were made public and teams are now offering upwards of six years and $120 million; this is not good for the Yankees.
Tanaka is one of the biggest high-risk, high-reward players in recent memory. Regardless of which team is able to land him, they will be giving up an insane amount of cash. Several teams will be exceeding the luxury-tax threshold if they get Tanaka, and they will be rendering themselves unable to sign other pieces in the process.
The Yankees are the most vulnerable team if Tanaka chooses to play in the Bronx. Not only will the Yankees be taxed heavily for having their payroll soar over $189 million, but their rotation will seriously rely on him. The Yankees will need Tanaka to be at least a 15-win guy in his first MLB season.
If he fails to answer the bell in pinstripes, the Yankees’ offseason will go from one of the best in franchise history to one of the worst. First, the Yankees will have to live with the reality that they let their franchise second baseman go in order to gamble on an unproven foreign pitcher. The Yankees didn’t want to sign Robinson Cano to a mega-contract, and rightfully so. Howver, they would have turned around and given a massive payday to someone who has no assurances. At least the Yankees know what they were getting with Cano.
Secondly, the Yanks could be flirting with a mini-Alex Rodriguez contract. The price for Tanaka is incredibly high, in my opinion, and while he may have initial success likewise of Yu Darvish, there’s no telling if he will turn into a Daisuke Matsuzaka. Going six years on a rookie MLB pitcher has disaster written all over it.
Lastly, if Tanaka doesn’t become an ace instantly, the Yankees would have missed out on the remaining free-agent pitchers. Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Bronson Arroyo and many other quality top-of-the-rotation guys are still available. Tanaka could be the last pitcher the Yankees get if they are able to land him. There are rumors that because the Yankees would be exceeding the luxury tax with Tanaka anyways, they would just keep spending and go after someone like Jimenez. As crazy as it sounds, the Yankees would be the only franchise with deep enough pockets to make that happen, but I still doubt Hal Steinbrenner and company would spend that much in one offseason.
Winning a championship this year with Tanaka on the roster will ultimately erase all of the consequences that will inevitably come with signing him. I believe Tanaka will be able to have success in MLB and he is probably the closest thing to a safe foreign pitcher as there can be. However, if the Japanese star folds under the pressure in the big show, he could end up being the worst decision in Yankees history.