Yankees Win Masahiro Tanaka Sweepstakes, Sign Ace to Seven-Year Deal

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Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka

The bidding war is over, and only the New York Yankees were left standing at around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The Yanks and Masahiro Tanaka have agreed to a seven-year, $155 million deal, FOX Sports reported, which includes an opt-out clause after the fourth year. The contract is the fifth-highest for a pitcher behind Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and new teammate CC Sabathia.

On “Sportscenter” Wednesday, ESPN insider Buster Olney explained how the Yankees landed the ace.

“By throwing a lot of money at him,” he said, “That’s what Zack Greinke got after winning the Cy Young. That’s what CC Sabathia got after the 2008 season. (Tanaka) hasn’t thrown a pitch in the big leagues, but the Yankees were so desperate for a front-end sort of rotation pitcher. (Tanaka) is only 25 years old, but he’s got top-end rotation stuff.

“And I don’t think the Alex Rodriguez suspension — that the team won’t have to pay him in 2014 — was a big factor. I think the Yankees were going to be aggressive anyway.”

Pitching was certainly an area the Yankees needed to upgrade during the offseason, and the team had its sights set on Tanaka even before their season came to a close. They needed a young front-end starter with Sabathia getting older and struggling during 2013, and Michael Pineda — who was supposed to be their up-and-coming young starter — never returning to form since his injury.

At least five teams reportedly made offers greater than $100 million to Tanaka, including the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox. The Cubs, Dodgers and Yankees were the main finalists, according to the New York Post, but the Yanks adding a seventh year was the difference.

Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in the Japanese League last year, and the Yankees also owe the Rakuten Golden Eagles, Tanaka’s former club, $20 because the right-hander was still under contract for the next two seasons.

Tanaka is one of many marquee free-agent signings by the Yankees, who missed the postseason for the second time since the 1995 season. Earlier in the offseason, the team inked outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and catcher Brian McCann to big deals. Overall, the team dropped $438 million in free agency this winter.

With the biggest domino falling into place, other teams in search of starting pitching will be making their pitches to Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jiminez and Ervin Santana.

Sam Spiegelman is a native New Yorker covering sports in New Orleans. He likes Game of Thrones way too much. Tweet him @samspiegs.
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