It was a move that had to be done — the final piece to the long, expensive offseason puzzle that the New York Yankees were putting together since their 2013 season ended with missing the playoffs. Without signing Japanese free agent starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees’ offseason would be a disappointment, even with their other free agent signings.
Now with Tanaka in the Bronx as a member of the Yankees, the team has officially had a successful offseason and can be considered the team favored to win the AL East.
The Yankees were easily the most aggressive team in the division this year, and it should pay off for them with a return to the top of the division. Looking at the moves the Yankees made, they improved their team more than anyone else in the AL East, if not in all of baseball. With a lineup that has Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner, the Yankees will have a deep and scary lineup if they can stay healthy.
Now, with Tanaka signed, the Yankees have a starting rotation that can match up one through four against almost any other rotation in all of baseball. Bringing the righty into the fold definitely takes some pressure off of C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova. The Yankees should also now be able to win close, low-scoring games during the season when the bats go cold.
Without Tanaka, the Yankees would have most likely watched the Boston Red Sox or Tampa Bay Rays win the AL East. Simply put, their other offseason additions weren’t enough to get the Yankees over the top as the kings of the division.
The starting rotation was still incredibly weak and a big question mark for the Yankees in a deep division. An aging Sabathia and Kuroda, along with rising star Nova just was not enough to compete in their division. On top of that, there were two complete question marks at the back end of the rotation that would have denied the Yankees a chance at winning 95 games, which you have to think is the number wins needed to challenge for a division crown.
The Bronx Bombers needed Tanaka, and went back to being the vintage Yankees we all know by getting what they needed. Sure, this is a big risk since Tanaka has not thrown a pitch in MLB, but with a record of dominance in NBP, the top league in Japan, the Yankees are not taking a complete shot in the dark. The NPB is not as competitive as the major leagues in the United States, but it is still extremely competitive with high caliber players in the league.
With this calculated risk, they have to be considered the favorites to win the AL East and dethrone the Red Sox. That would make everyone in New York happy.