It’s official. The New York Yankees won the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes. The Bombers reportedly signed the 25-year-old Japanese right-hander to a seven-year, $155 million deal early this morning.
This is, of course, outstanding news for the Yankees. Tanaka adds some much-needed security to an unsteady pitching staff and rounds out a blockbuster offseason for the Yankees. New Yorkers should feel pretty great about their chances at a 28th World Series Championship in 2014.
But how did their AL East comrades feel about the news? The defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox can’t be too happy. The Red Sox were never seriously interested in Tanaka, but it’s still got to sting that their biggest rivals just got a whole lot better.
Why didn’t the Sox go after Tanaka? After his Japanese team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, agreed to post him in December, it was reported that Boston was one of Tanaka’s preferred destinations along with Los Angeles and New York.
To start, Boston felt that their starting pitching was deep enough and that they had needs in other areas. Six quality starters are under contract for next year – Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, John Lackey, Jon Lester and Jake Peavy. The Sox also have several guys ready to go in Triple-A. General Manager Ben Cherington said, “Relative to past years, we think it’s an area of strength and depth.” If anything, the decision to be made in Boston is not if they should add another starting pitcher, but if they should trade one – Peavy or Dempster perhaps.
Furthermore, the Yankees haven’t been the only team talking about staying under the $189 luxury tax threshold in 2014. The Sox were just barely under that number in each of the last two seasons. According to Scott Lauber of The Boston Herald, the Red Sox have 19 players locked up and one arbitration case still pending. It’s likely that the other five roster spots will be taken by guys with less than three years of Major League service time, keeping their salaries at or around $500,000 for 2014.
By Lauber’s estimates, the Red Sox will have about $7 million left after the dust has settled. They would likely prefer to keep that $7 million in their back pockets to cover any mid-season call-ups. Also by these estimates, the only way Boston could have gotten Tanaka would’ve been to dump some salary somewhere which they were clearly unwilling to do.
Unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox have made a public declaration to build around young pitching. Since 2010, they have made 15 selections in the first two rounds of the draft. Of those 15 selections, nine have been pitchers.
Since the Red Sox were never a contender for Tanaka, they didn’t lose a battle here. However, it still can’t feel good to see the Evil Empire add so many stellar pieces to their roster. One thing is for sure; the battle for the AL East is shaping up to be a real hum dinger.