Masahiro Tanaka: New York Yankee

The annoying thing about Masahiro Tanaka’s signing window was that we knew nothing would happen until the very end of it. The convenient thing about Masahiro Tanaka’s signing window was that we knew there was a designated, set-in-stone end of it, so it’s not like things could drag on forever. This put Tanaka in a unique position, and in the end, he didn’t wait until the very last minute to make a choice — with a few days to spare, Tanaka’s elected to sign with the Yankees, for seven years and $155 million.

Also, there is an opt-out clause after the fourth year. Also, there is the matter of the $20 million posting fee. Put the numbers together and it’s a commitment similar to the one the Tigers made to Justin Verlander and that the Mariners made to Felix Hernandez, and while you can’t just add the posting fee to the salary total like that, and while the opt-out clause has its own value, and while some extra time has passed, and while this is the Yankees, and while those other guys weren’t free agents, it’s clear that Tanaka isn’t expected to contribute a serviceable 33 starts. Regardless of the fact that this is Yankees money, the expectation is that Tanaka will pitch like an ace. At least, like he’ll pitch like a good No. 2.

On multiple occasions, there were rumors that the Cubs would out-bid everybody else, in both money and years. Though the Cubs aren’t quite ready to win yet, the argument was that the front office loved the idea of signing a young potential superstar. The Dodgers were also in the mix, as the only team that can really compete with the Yankees’ finances, and there was talk that Tanaka would prefer to land out west. But the Yankees always seemed like the predictable destination, once they accepted that $189 million was unrealistic. They openly talked about their need for another 200 innings, they’re expected to be good every season, and they sure do have a lot of money to play with. Throw in the success of Hiroki Kuroda and nothing about today’s events is surprising. Maybe you didn’t expect Tanaka to decide until Thursday or Friday, but one way or another, it seemed pretty likely he’d end up with the Yankees by the end of the week.

The opt-out clause is important — Tanaka could, conceivably, enter actual free agency right before he turns 29. That would put him in line for another major payday if he manages to stay healthy and pitch well enough. At that point, he’d have three years remaining with the Yankees, at a total of $67 million. He’d simply have to project to beat those numbers as a free agent, and when you think about that, remember to account for multiple years of inflation. If Tanaka’s as good as the Yankees expect, he’ll opt out. If he’s a little worse, he might still opt out. In a sense this is only really a seven-year contract if things for New York go somewhat poorly.

We’ll go into greater depth a little bit later. For now, the Yankees have their man, which most people should’ve been expecting. They probably still aren’t good enough to catch the Red Sox, but they’re a pretty certain Wild Card contender, which they might not have been with a worse starter in Tanaka’s place. And with Tanaka having made a decision, at last, the remaining offseason dominoes ought to begin toppling with spring training right around the corner. Bid farewell to the quiet period — February came early this time around, and now we should have activity of interest leading right into pitchers and catchers. And thank damned goodness for that.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Brian
8 years ago

That opt out clause and the posting fee makes this one very questionable for me. The upside (4 years of very good pitching, then opt out. Yankees pay $108M total for 4 yrs) doesn’t match the downside (mediocre or injury-riddled 7 yrs/$155 plus the posting fee).

I know the Yankees can afford it, but they are basically spending the Cano money on Tanaka, and leaving a bit of a hole at 2B.

Or is the Japanese marketing aspect bump up the upside an mitigate the downside enough that it makes sense?

Kenz
8 years ago
Reply to  Brian

The Yankees probably don’t care about the downside that much. Think about nearly every contract they’ve given out for seven years or more. The Sabathia deal is pretty much the same as Tanaka’s, and they’re already starting to see the downside of it. The downside for Jacoby Ellsbury is enormous is he loses a step on the basepaths as he gets older. And don’t forget the multi-year deals for slow first-basemen (Giambi, Teixeira).

The Yankees can afford it. That’s the beginning of the argument, and the end of the argument.

Iron
8 years ago
Reply to  Kenz

But opportunity cost is something. For instance, they evidently could not ‘afford’ Cano.

YankeeGM
8 years ago
Reply to  Iron

The Cano decision had nothing to do with being able to afford it. The Yanks learned that 10 years for a 31 y/o player is insane, and with the ARod disaster front and center they flat out refused to do it again.

Iron
8 years ago
Reply to  Iron

If you think Cano will produce less WAR/dollar over his contract than Tanaka will, that is a fair assertion.

But my point was just that “they can afford it, so that’s the end” is a stupid statement. They can afford more than other teams, but they obviously have to make cost/benefit analyses on every player the same as every other team.

jpgmember
8 years ago
Reply to  Iron

I think they should have resigned Cano. Yankees are one of the few teams with the wherewithal to pay Cano if he’s a replacement level player in 2023. They are only paying Ellsbury something like $3 million less over the next seven years.

Forget about win now mode, the Yankees are in win-forever mode. The team was pretty competitive all year despite all of A-Rod, Tex, Jeter and Granderson spending most of the season on the DL. The four guys probably made $75 mil collectively last year. Add in Sabathia who was awful and Youk who was hurt and awful and you’re at over $100 million worth of guys who did nothing. If that isn’t a sign that, especially with a decade’s worth of inflation, that $24 million in dead weight just wouldn’t be a big deal for the Yankees in 2022 and 2023.

Preston
8 years ago
Reply to  Iron

They offered Cano a higher AAV than the Mariners. So it wasn’t about fitting him into the annual budget. It was about not giving a guy a contract until he’s on the wrong side of 40. Tanaka will be 32 at the end of his deal, it’s a totally different type of risk.

ken
8 years ago
Reply to  Iron

“They can afford it” was essentially Dave Cameron’s defense of the Ellsbury signing

Valuearb
8 years ago
Reply to  Iron

They did not offer a higher AAV than the mariners when state/local taxes were factored in. They never budgeted on their lowball offer, them turned around and threw more money at worse players.

If they can afford Ellsbury, then they were better off offering Cano 7/$190M or 8/$210m to get a better player who fills a much greater need especially when the Yanks already have a center fielder 85% as good as Ellsbury).

Tanaka is going to cost $25m a year for 7 years (with posting fee) if he’s worth less than that. If in the unlikely chance he’s worth more than he’s paid, the Yankees get 4 years at $108m, $27m a year, and he opts out. Assuming inflation drives WAR to $6m/each over those 4 years, requires 18 WAR to break even before he opts out. Over the last 4 years only 6 MLB pitchersi have over 18 WAR. The odds that Tanaka will do it might be only 1 in 10. Using $5.5m per WAR pushes the line to 20 WAR, and only 4 pitchers have reached that over the last 4 years.

The odds that he gets hurt or disappoints and costs the full $175m are over 50%. Worse is he can be a 3-4 WAR pitcher every year, and a big disappointment based on that huge cost, yet still opt out to easily lock down a bigger contract than his remaining option.

If the Yanks can afford to pay $27m a year for players, do it for proven MLB stars in free agency or in trade, not for riskier Japanese talent that comes with a large posting fee surtax, and giving them absurdly bad options. They would have been better off giving Tanaka 7/$180m straight because they get to keep him 3 more years if he’s a stud, and doesn’ti cost much more if he busts. Or payi him $19m/year up to the opt out, and $27m/year for the 3 year option, so if he opts out they at least got a good deal for the first 4 years.

LaLoosh
8 years ago
Reply to  Kenz

Ellsbury will be a bad deal just like Jeter’s contracts have been albatrosses for the Yankees (they haven’t been). Ellsbury is the best leadoff hitter in the game and the successor to Jeter for the Yanks. Great signing. There is almost no way to criticize accumulating the best available talent. McCann, Ellsbury, Tron, Tanaka. The Yankees have blown everyone else out of the water this winter (and I’m not a Yankee fan).

semperty
8 years ago
Reply to  LaLoosh

Ellsbury’s got a whooping .356 OBP over the last 3 years (.355 last year). What, exactly makes him “the best leadoff hitter in the game”?

chuckb
8 years ago
Reply to  LaLoosh

First of all, the comments about which you’re so incredibly certain are, at the very least, arguable. It’s not at all clear, for example, that Ellsbury is the best leadoff hitter in the game. Second, I fail to see how a guy who can’t play SS — especially when the Yankees have no obvious replacement for Jeter — is “Jeter’s successor” unless you’re stating that Ellsbury’s going to go on the DL as soon as Jeter comes off it.

Most importantly, if there’s “no way to criticize accumulating the best available talent” then the Yankees ought to be criticized for screwing the pooch on Cano. There, they opted NOT to sign the best available talent thus, by your estimation, making their offseason worse.

The Humber Games
8 years ago
Reply to  LaLoosh

You see a great offseason – I see an offseason where they took a team that was already a parade of injury risks, and added a few more high injury risk players to it, and a big question mark in Tanaka.

I mean
Ellsbury
Jeter
Beltran
Teixeira
McCann
Soriano
Roberts
Gardner

Would you put money on any of these guys staying healthy all year? Soriano, maybe? It seems to me that the Yankees took a formula that gave them a lost season last year (aging players and little depth) and doubled down on it this year.

DNA+
8 years ago
Reply to  LaLoosh

The Yankees have missed the playoffs twice during Cashman’s entire tenure, running out veteran teams pretty much every year. They probably know what they are doing….

DNA+
8 years ago
Reply to  LaLoosh

By comparison, the Redsox have missed the playoffs more times in the last four years than the Yankees have in the last 20. That is pretty crazy when you consider that the Redsox are thought to be among the best run teams in baseball.

LaLoosh
8 years ago
Reply to  LaLoosh

clearly the Yankees chose (key word) to use the 240M commitment it would have taken to lock up Cano for 10 yrs instead to get Ellsbury for 7 and McCann or 5. Ells by himself nearly matched the 6 wins that Cano had in 2013.

As far as injuries go, predicting that Ells is likely to get bhp that will land him on the DL just shows that there is something more going on in these reactions…

Fardbart
8 years ago
Reply to  LaLoosh

They made the playoffs all those years due to 2 things:
* A fantastic crop of home-grown talent in the mid-late 90s
* Having the ability to massivly outspend everyone else (and keep that talent/buy other teams’ talent)

They can still do the latter, but the former is gone. Without both they are just another team of risky veterans, who need everything to go perfectly to contend. For the last decade, or so, they have been the worst-run team in the division (in terms of identifying and developing talent). The money covers up for a lot of mistakes, however.

Imagine if the Patriots in the NFL were able to spend 3x what the Packers spend. How awesome would they be?

John C
8 years ago
Reply to  LaLoosh

“By comparison, the Redsox have missed the playoffs more times in the last four years than the Yankees have in the last 20.”

And neither one of them cares about that. The Red Sox and the Yankees aren’t trying to “make the playoffs,” they’re both trying to win the World Series. If you lose in the Division Series, you might as well have lost 93 games. Right now, the Red Sox are a lot better at winning the World Series than the Yankees are. And that’s why the Yankees threw all that money at Tanaka today.

ankle explosion hr celebration
8 years ago
Reply to  LaLoosh

don’t know if anyone’s said this yet, but seems relevant: the Yankees will enter 2014 with one of the oldest teams ever, and are thus very likely to lose a lot of games to injury..
My bet is that they will underperform badly.

source
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22579

Pirates Hurdles
8 years ago
Reply to  Brian

I don’t see this as a gain in Japanese marketing, due to the fact that the Yankees already have a massive worldwide marketing edge. I can’t imagine this really increasing what is already a strong footprint.

Basically $27 million a year for the peak years of what is supposed to be a 3 to 4 win SP. That is no bargain at all.

Ollie
8 years ago

Well, at market rates of 5.5 – 6 mil per WAR, if he is a 4 war pitcher it is not a gross overpay.

Tyler K Patterson
8 years ago
Reply to  Ollie

It’s closer to 6.5/ 7 per win but your point remains.

Pirates Hurdles
8 years ago
Reply to  Ollie

I didn’t say it was an overpay.

The problem with the contract is that the Yankees are assuming a ton of risk. The kind of risk that only a handful of teams can take. Its another shot to competitive balance, which at this point is all but dead.

Iron
8 years ago
Reply to  Ollie

Best case being “not a gross overpay” is a pretty shaky place for a contract to start from.

JimNYC
8 years ago
Reply to  Ollie

“Competitive balance is all but dead.”

2013 opening day payroll ranks of all teams who made the playoffs:

Dodgers: 2
Red Sox: 4
Tigers: 5
Cardinals: 11
Reds: 13
Braves: 18
Indians: 21
Athletics: 26
Pirates: 27
Rays: 28

Meaning that as many teams in the BOTTOM 5 in Opening Day payroll made the playoffs as teams in the top 5. More teams from the bottom third of payrolls made the playoffs than teams from the top third.

But keep telling yourself that competitive balance is dead.

Anaphylaxis
8 years ago
Reply to  Ollie

@JIMNYC

Yes, but all four of the teams that made the ALCS/NLCS are the top four on that list.

Oakland, Tampa, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh were awful for an extended period of time. All of those teams were highly uncompetitive for over a decade. And none of them have won a World Series on their current hot steaks.

Cool Lester Smooth
8 years ago

On the other hand, the Yankees don’t care about little stuff like “bargains.” They don’t exist in the same market as everyone else.

yanks bullpen
8 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Day’s never finished, Masa’s got me working
someday Masa set me free!!!!!!!

Boris Chinchilla
8 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Imagine the firestorm after it’s revealed that Tanaka’s NPB numbers are fake and that he is transgender!

Jack Zduriencik
8 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Tanaka took the line and snorted it with million dollar bills.

hamjenkinsIII
8 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Tasahiro Manaka

pft
8 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Tanaka will put close to 100K more fans in the park in his starts alone in the Bronx. At 85 dollars a pop, that’s over 8 million. Add to this advertisements on YES games whose ratings will be through the roof, no idea how to estimate this. In stadium advertisements and Japanese sponsorships which could exceed 5 million based on the Matsui experience. And in stadium merchandise sales of Tanaka jerseys will be lapped up by the Japanese fans.

I would say Tanaka will add about 15 million in revenue to help pay for his salary and the tax. Also, by virtue of making the Yankees competitive, the Yankees can recover that 58 million in lost ticket sales in 2013 and increase attendance even in games he does not pitch.

ankle explosion hr celebration
8 years ago
Reply to  pft

“Tanaka will put close to 100K more fans in the park in his starts alone in the Bronx. ”

How did you get this 100K number?