Despite the New York Yankees repeating the mantra of staying below the $189 million tax threshold for the 2014 season, the Bronx Bombers went on a large spending spree this off-season, signing sought-after free agents including Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran to large contracts. The Yankees have now been pushed over that $189 million threshold by signing perhaps the most coveted prize of the offseason in Masahiro Tanaka of the Rakuten Golden Eagles to a seven-year, $155 million contract.
Tanaka’s numbers in Japan were stellar last season, with the 25-year old right-hander going a perfect 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 212.0 innings. With a WHIP of 0.94, his numbers rival that of Clayton Kershaw, the winner of the NL Cy Young award in two of the last three seasons, who posted a 1.83 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP last season.
While Tanaka’s numbers have been sensational over the last few seasons, the move to hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium coupled with a power-hitting AL East will certainly hurt his production in 2014. According to Bloomberg Sports’ projections, Tanaka is expected to post a fantasy line of a 13.3-9.2 record, 152 strikeouts, a 3.62 ERA, and a 1.17 WHIP.
For the Yankees, this signing is incredibly important as the AL East race is extremely tight and their pitching staff faces a lot of questions. Last season, the AL East was the only division in baseball to boast four teams with 85+ wins and one of just two divisions to have all five teams finish with 70+ wins. The addition of Tanaka adds close to 1.5 wins for the Yankees, and while that seems small, it improves their chances of winning the division from 35.6% to 41.6% while also improving their odds of making the playoffs from 41.5% to 47.9%
Odds to Win the AL East
Before Tanaka Signing
With Tanaka Signing
|Boston Red Sox||60.1%||59.6%|
|New York Yankees||35.6%||41.6%|
|Tampa Bay Rays||37.8%||37.2%|
|Toronto Blue Jays||32.8%||31.8%|
In terms of their pitching staff, Yankee ace CC Sabathia had a rough season, posting an ERA of 4.78 and a WHIP of 1.37, both career highs. A big question will be how Sabathia can bounce back in 2014. Another question is Hiroki Kuroda. Despite two stellar seasons with the Yankees, Kuroda will be 39 this season, which brings some uncertainty to whether or not he can continue to produce at such a high level.
The addition of Tanaka is a big move for the New York Yankees, who will try to land back in the playoffs after missing the cut for just the second time in the last 19 seasons.