Only those living under a rock this offseason were unaware of the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes that was won by the New York Yankees. After having an unbelievable season in Japan pitching for the Rakuten Eagles, Tanaka decided to cash in and make the jump to Major League Baseball. And boy, did he ever cash in.
After several teams negotiated with Tanaka, he decided to sign a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees. Once again, the Yankees were able to outbid the field even if they did overpay.
Tanaka is likely to be one of the focal points of spring training this season as he has never thrown a pitch in a big league uniform. That will all change soon when toes the rubber for the Yankees. A lot of the hype surrounding him this spring training will simply have to do with seeing him play. It’s not like the Yankees are going to toss him out there to try and throw a complete game shutout.
However, it will be interesting to see how Tanaka attacks big league hitters. His approach towards the batters he faces this spring will be more interesting than the results he gets. Once the regular season starts, then everyone can start worrying about results.
At just 25-years-old, the Yankees weren’t looking for a quick fix when they signed Tanaka. They are hoping that he can have some of the same success as other Japanese pitchers who have come over such as Yu Darvish and Hyun-Jin Ryu. If he is in fact able to produce at a similar level as those two, the Yankees could surprise this season.
As the newest player on one of the league’s most popular teams, Tanaka is sure to draw plenty of attention this spring. All it is, though, is preparation for the regular season. Once he gets there that’s when the pressure will be on and all of the hype will be put to the test.