Masahiro Tanaka, the Rakuten Golden Eagles ace who helped lead his team to the Nippon Professional Baseball championship last season, has signed a seven-year, ＄155 million contract with the New York Yankees.
The pitcher, with an ERA of 1.27 for the season, was the subject of heavy bidding during the past weeks, as the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs were reportedly rivaling for the right-handed pitcher’s skills.
The deal, which was officially announced on Wednesday, has an opt-out clause after the fourth year—Tanaka will have made $88 million at that point. Under new rules governing the system that allows Japanese players to sign with a US club, the Yankees will pay an additional $20 million to the Eagles.
The 25-year-old right-hander went 24-0 for the Rakuten en route to winning the Japan Series, and is perhaps the most prized pitcher to come from Nippon Professional Baseball since Hideki Irabu to the Yankees more than 15 years ago.
Baseball officials said Tanaka was a ‘big get’ for the Yankees.
“He wanted to be a Yankee,” a baseball official familiar with the agreement said. The Yankees beat out the Dodgers and the Cubs for Tanaka, according to one source.
“He’s just gotten better and better and with the competition, playoffs or WBC (World Baseball Classic), it seemed like the bigger game, the more he would step up,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “He would dial it up.”
“One thing that has resonated is the competitive side of this particular player. He thrives on the biggest stage. That speaks to one of the reasons he chose us.”
After missing the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years, the Yankees went on a free-agent spending spree this off-season, also landing catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. The four deals totaled $438 million.
“We’re going to do what we’ve got to do to win,” Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “Anybody that questioned our commitment to winning is going to have to question themselves.”
Known in Japan by the moniker “Ma-kun,” Tanaka is a veteran of Olympic and WBC competition. If you’ve been watching any TV in Japan recently, you’ve either been seeing him on the news or on the variety shows over the New Year.
Tanaka’s contract with the Yankees calls for $22 million in each of the first six seasons and $23 million in 2020. He will also receive a $35,000 moving allowance, an annual $100,000 housing allowance, and an interpreter of the pitcher’s choice at an $85,000 yearly salary. This is the richest deal signed by an international free agent and the fifth-largest for a pitcher.
Not bad for a 25-year-old, right?
By Maesie Bertumen