Before he signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees, the Chicago Cubs pushed hard for Japanese RHP Masahiro Tanaka. The Cubs envisioned the 25-year-old pitcher as the ace of their staff for many years as he would grow with their young organization. On Wednesday afternoon, the Cubs got to see first-hand what they missed out on.
In game one of a day-night doubleheader, Tanaka took the mound for the Yankees to face the Cubs. He was practically unhittable, cruising through eight innings without allowing a run, striking out 10 Cubs batters, walking one and giving up only two hits. The first hit against Tanaka was a second-inning bunt single by outfielder Junior Lake that was originally called an out before Cubs’ manager Rick Renteria challenged the play and got it overturned.
His second hit allowed was another bunt single, this one by Anthony Rizzo on a play where Rizzo simply beat the Yankees’ shift. There were no significantly hard hit balls all afternoon against Tanaka.
Tanaka is now 2-0 with 22 innings pitched through his first three MLB starts. He has an ERA of 2.05, an impressive BAA of .185 and an incredible 28:2 strikeout to walk ratio. He has shown wonderful control and command on the mound, which is most impressive because each of Tanaka’s pitches have great movement. He has also done an incredible job of changing speeds. Tanaka’s Splitter has been his most impressive pitch thus far. When he has kept the pitch down, nobody has been able to hit it well.
Missing out on Tanaka was a bummer for the Cubs this offseason as they really pushed hard to land him. That being said, with the team not currently being competitive, the Cubs probably would have needed to blow the Yankees’ offer out of the water to land him. The organization has moved on, and the long rebuild continues.
While three impressive starts does not mean that Tanaka is the next Greg Maddux, the Yankees currently seem to have made the right decision to go all out for him. Sure, they paid a lot of money for an unproven talent, but so far, you literally could not ask for more. Tanaka is a Yankee for the next seven years, and seems to have a very bright future ahead of him.