NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Bronx is rejoicing!
Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka has signed a seven-year deal with the New York Yankees, the team announced Wednesday.
Tanaka’s contract is worth $155 million and contains a full no-trade clause, according to WFAN and CBSSports.com baseball insider Jon Heyman. He will be able to opt out after the 2017 season.
His decision reportedly came down to five finalists: the Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks. The heavily courted starting pitcher was facing a Jan. 24 deadline to sign with an MLB team or return to pitch in Japan.
“We’re going to do what we’ve got to do to win,” Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner told The Associated Press.
Hank’s brother, Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, has said getting under the $189 million luxury tax threshold was a goal — not a mandate — for 2014. They are now at $203 million, according to the AP.
“We needed to improve our pitching,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told WFAN host Mike Francesa on Wednesday. “We needed to do a lot of different things, but definitely needed to pull 400 innings off of the marketplace. Re-signing (Hiroki) Kuroda and now securing Tanaka will help reinforce much-needed rotation help.
“(Getting under the threshold) was certainly a stated goal, but Hal, I think, has had to clarify that a number of times … That certainly was a stated goal, and something we were working towards, but unfortunately a lot of different things that would have assisted us in that process didn’t work out.”
“Anybody that questioned our commitment to winning is going to have to question themselves,” Hank Steinbrenner said.
Tanaka had an unbelievable 2013 season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 212 innings.
The 25-year-old is said to have No. 1 starter stuff, with a fastball in the mid-90s and a splitter that drops off the table. Ex-Yankee Darrell Rasner, who was a teammate of Tanaka’s for the past five years, raved about the pitcher’s makeup in a recent interview with WFAN’s Sweeny Murti.
“He throws a curveball, a slider, a cutter, a sinker, a changeup,” Rasner said. “He really has too many pitches. It’s just a matter of a pitching coach getting a hold of him, whittling those down to four quality pitches.
“And he can do that I think. He’s very coachable.”
The Yankees were eyeing Tanaka long before he was posted by Rakuten — and they may still be in need of another starter. The only locks for next season’s rotation are CC Sabathia, Kuroda, Ivan Nova and now Tanaka.
Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez are still available in free agency.
The Yankees will save just over $22 million in 2014 thanks to Alex Rodriguez’s season-long suspension. Tanaka’s deal has an average annual value of $22.14 million, not including the $20 million posting fee owed to Rakuten.
New York went 85-77 in 2013, missing the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years. The Yankees have committed a total of $438 million this offseason on four major additions: Tanaka, catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran.
“There has been criticism of myself and my brother the last couple years that, gee, if our dad (George Steinbrenner) was still in charge, we’d be spending this and spending that and doing whatever it takes to win,” Hank Steinbrenner told the AP.
In a corresponding roster move, the Yankees designated left-handed pitcher David Huff for assignment.
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