Showing posts with label Masaharo Tanaka. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Masaharo Tanaka. Show all posts

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Who is Pitching Phenom Masahiro Tanaka?

By Howard Goldin

BRONX, NEW YORK, JANUARY 23- Two days before the deadline for Masahiro Tanaka to sign with a major league team or return to his club in Japan, the New York Yankees announced the signing of the Japanese pitcher. Thus, they won the big sweepstakes of the 2014 pre-season with this signing. Several teams including the Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox and Diamondbacks were making a strong effort to sign the 25- year-old Japanese right handed hurler.

Although the young pitcher has yet to throw a pitch in MLB, he signed the fifth highest contract for a pitcher in the history of the majors. He was given $155 million for seven years with an opt-out clause after the fourth year in 2017. As the team that signed Tanaka, the Yankees will also have to pay the $20 million posting fee to the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). 

Tanaka began playing organized baseball as a little leaguer in his native country. He was a highly touted pitcher in high school before joining the Golden Eagles at the age of 18.

He immediately lived up to expectations as he was elected Rookie of the Year in 2007. 

Tanaka won 99 while dropping only 35 decisions in seven seasons in the Pacific League with an ERA of 2.30. He fanned 1,236 batters in 1,315 innings in 175 games. Unlike recent MLB stats, the righty completed 53 of his 172 starts. His strikeout/walk ratio is a startling 4.5-1 (1,236/275). 

His most recent three seasons were played at an even higher level of performance. He was 53-9 with a miniscule ERA of 1.44. Last year, he had a perfect 24-0 mark. 

The 25 year-old has pitched against international competition in the 2008 Olympics and in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) 2009 and 2013.

Obtaining the services of Tanaka has been a goal of the Yankees. The retirement of Andy Pettitte and the decision not to sign Phil Hughes left the team short two starters. The farm system of the Yankees has few, if any, pitchers who could make the jump to the majors and keep the team in the hunt for the championship. Tanaka will join Sabathia, Kuroda, and Nova in the rotation with a fifth starter, perhaps Pineda or Phelps, to be decided in Spring Training.

The Yankee ownership has, judging by the signings of McCann, Ellsbury, Beltran and Tanaka, shown dissatisfaction with an 85-win season in which they finished out of the playoffs for only the second time in the last 19 seasons.  

Although keeping this year’s salary below $189 million has been an organization goal, managing partner Hal Steinbrenner, at the press conferences for the signing of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, made it clear having a championship caliber team was the paramount objective. A Wednesday afternoon conference call, the Yankees general manager, Brian Cashman, remarked that these signings are proof that Hank and Hal Steinbrenner are very serious regarding raising the franchise to a level where they can compete for the World Series title.

Why the Yankees desired to obtain the services of Tanaka is much more obvious than why he chose the Yankees. There may be many reasons why he chose the Yankees, playing in New York City, having experienced players from his homeland like Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki as teammates, having his songstress wife, Mai Stoda, further here career in the international city, or receiving a call from former Yankee Hideki Matsui of his favorable experiences as a Yankee. The reasoning may be revealed at his first press conference as a Yankee.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Is He Worth the Ca$h?

Is He Worth the Ca$h?

Tanaka is a risk for Yanks but the rotation looks better to put them on top
By Rich Mancuso
BRONX, NEW YORK, JANUARY 22- Spending never was an issue with the New York Yankees and that $189 million salary threshold by all means was not going to stop them. No, spending is not an issue when this organization is idle and not playing baseball in October. And for the Yankees it is not right to be watching, instead of playing baseball in October.
Throw away a theory that the Yankees were not going to spend their precious money, and with the agreement in place to sign Japanese right-hander Masaharo Tanaka, they may have assured themselves of playing baseball again this October.
Well from all accounts it appears the Yankees will play baseball in October. It is a long season. There are still questions about the infield with an aging Derek Jeter over at shortstop; second quality talent to fill the holes at second; at first Mark Teixeira is coming off an injury ridden season.
At seven years and $155 million, with an opt-out clause after four years, the seventh highest contract granted to a pitcher, Tanaka is a risk because he has never thrown a Major League Baseball pitch. But, the Yankees feel they got what they needed.
They saw Tanaka enough to be convinced, his 24-0 record and 1.27 ERA last season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles will work here. They may have solved the missing pieces of a puzzle. It gives manager Joe Girardi the leisure of throwing left-hander and ace CC Sabathia, followed by right-handers Hiroki Kuroda, Tanaka, Ivan Nova and David Phelps.
And Michael Pineda, who has not thrown a pitch since being acquired two years ago, could be the other right-hander in the mix along with Vidal Nuno who threw some quality pitches last season.   
A risk of seven years, Tanaka is one of four active pitchers now to have thrown over 1,000 innings, at or before 24-years of age.  The Yankees had the leverage to spend more with the departure of Robinson Cano to Seattle and the certain season-long suspension of Alex Rodriguez.  
So the Yankees were the team once again this off-season spending the money. With acquiring contracts of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, and now Tanaka, that is a combined $491 million.
Say what you want, this reminds one of the late George Steinbrenner. He took out his wallet and they came to the Bronx. The Steinbrenner sons, Hal and Hank, did not appear to be on that spending spree and perhaps the long-term and bad contract of A-Rod was a reason why.
However, the Yankees do not like to be idle in October. Declining attendance and hearing boos in the new house “That George built” was a message sent to baseball that they were not going to stand still. They threw out the bad A-Rod contract theory, and had the money.
All of a sudden a threshold of $189 million was insignificant.
Of course that figure is not important, because from all standards the Yankees have improved by spending money. However, the signing of Tanaka and others does not assure they will go all the way. With improvements they have made a step to be in the post-season this October.
It was 2009, the last time the Yankees spent all this money. You remember, the last time the team won a World Series with Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, oh, and a guy named Alex Rodriguez.
That is in the past of this illustrious Yankees franchise. The emphasis is now and the need to possibly find a replacement for Mariano Rivera, the all-time saves leader because David Robertson may not be suited for that role.
In the meantime, Tanaka will adjust to the different game and pitching to Major League baseball talent. He will get help from Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki who may have influenced his decision coming to the Bronx, a second factor of course to the contract.    
Tanaka tossed eight complete games and recorded two shutouts last season in Japan. He can make a big difference in a pitching staff that still had some question marks but that remains to be determined.
What has been determined is the Yankees have spent their money again, something that had never been an issue. And this latest signing of Tanaka assured that the organization will never be content unless they are playing baseball in October.
Time will tell if the Tanaka investment was worth the long-term risk. Rest assured for the moment it made the Yankees a better team in their quest for an October return.