The New York Yankees made a sizable investment to secure the services of prized Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka. Well, so far so good for the Yankees.
The New York star pitched two scoreless innings against the Philadelphia Phillies in his debut, striking out three. There was much anticipation for this appearance, both in New York and Japan. Tanaka did not disappoint, entering the spring game in the fifth inning, throwing a total of 31 pitches while allowing two hits.
Fans and players alike were no doubt interested to see Tanaka perform, and his debut was anything but a normal spring training game, with the atmosphere around the packed ballpark electric. New York teammate CC Sabathia, who started the game for the Yankees in his first appearance of the spring, was definitely pleased to be part of the event:
“It was good to see him out there,” Sabathia said of Tanaka. “It was fun. I think everybody was excited. The buzz around the park, there were a lot of people here early. For us (Sabathia, Kuroda, Tanaka) to pitch on the same day was cool.”
The exhibition game certainly had an international flavor to it, particularly in Japan, where the Yankees already have a strong following due to the presence of Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda. Ironically, Tanaka actually followed Kuroda on the mound for the Yankees. The game was broadcast live in Japan on three different networks, along with the YES Network and MLB Network in the United States.
New York signed Tanaka after a lengthy process that began after the pitcher was posted by his former team in Japan, the Rakuten Golden Eagles. The Yankees were considered one of the favorites to land the pitcher from the beginning, along with the Los Angeles Dodgers and a handful of other teams. The Yankees courted Tanaka extensively, and after hearing proposals from many different organizations, the pitcher chose New York. The consensus was the Yankees had just the right combination of resources and need to make the deal happen, despite speculation they would attempt to remain under the MLB luxury tax threshold.
The Yankees ultimately signed Tanaka to a seven-year deal worth a reported $155 million. There is certainly much potential risk involved with this contract, particularly when considering the Japanese import has yet to throw a regular season pitch in MLB. There is also an opt out clause for the pitcher after his fourth season with the Yankees, further increasing the risk.
The virtue of this contract for New York will not be known for some time. Will Tanaka prove worthy of the deal, or will the Yankees eventually regret it long term?