(Story published Jan. 22, 2014 on YanksGoYard.com)
All off-season long the question remained; would the New York Yankees spend just enough to make it look like they were committed to winning, or would they spend what they needed to in order to be a real contender in 2014?
Yankee fans have been hearing about the $189 million cap for a few years now, as that’s the number they needed to stay under in order to avoid having their luxury tax rate climb to even bigger numbers. It was a goal set in place a few years ago, but the Yankees’ failures in the past put them in a difficult position. Their farm system hasn’t developed a legitimate major league talent since setup man David Robertson (the verdict is still out on Ivan Nova), and overspending in past years has left them paying big money to aging stars.
The New York Yankees did not make the playoffs last year, and that’s not acceptable in Yankeeland. So when the team went out and spent big money on Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, it was nice, but it wasn’t enough. Then the Yankees brought in Carlos Beltran to cement a rock solid lineup, but it still wasn’t enough to win. Even with all that, the team needed more starting pitching. So would they try to be thrifty and find quality starting pitchers for cheap, or would they be the Yankees and get the guy everyone knew they needed?
On Wednesday, the Yankees got who they needed in Masahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka was the true test of whether or not ownership was truly committed to winning, or whether they were just concerned about the bottom line.
In the past with George Steinbrenner at the helm, that was never a question. But in the past few years under his son Hal Steinbrenner’s leadership, it was a valid question. He spoke often about cutting payroll and rumors have even circled that he is looking to sell the team. They won in 2009 just months George’s passing, but there hasn’t been much success since.
The Yankees truly are looking to change that, and everyone in the organization proved that today by giving Tanaka the fifth-highest contract for a starting pitcher in history–albeit to a guy who hasn’t even thrown a pitch in the major leagues yet.
But it was what needed to be done. Tanaka was expected to get well over $100 million based on his reputation, and rightfully so. The 25-year-old was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA, 0.943 WHIP and 183 strikeouts last year for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japanese Pacific League. This his third straight season with an ERA under two.
Sure there are questions about how the stuff will translate to the majors, but everyone knew he was the best free agent pitcher out there and would set the market. Settling for a Matt Garza or an Ervin Santana would’ve been just that, settling. Tanaka is the guy with the “ace” potential, and he is now a Yankee.
This will all play out in the next few years and we’ll know soon enough whether or not this move was the right one. What matters now is that fans can rest easy knowing the team made the move it had to make in order to have a shot at hoisting up the Commissioner’s Trophy at the end of the year.