Friday, October 18, 2013
Spend Hal's Money: Masahiro Tanaka
By Andrew Marchand
Masahiro Tanaka could bring some buzz to the Bronx.
Hal Steinbrenner's "serious goal" is to have the Yankees' payroll fall below the $189 million salary threshold. With that in mind, here at ESPN New York, we are going to examine potential free-agent and trade candidates in a feature we call "Spend Hal's Money."
Candidate: Masahiro Tanaka
Age: 24 (turns 25 on Nov. 1)
2013: 24-0, 1.27 ERA in Japan
SHOULD THE YANKEES SPEND HAL'S MONEY?: The Yankees need to enter 2014 with more pitching and some extra buzz. Tanaka may be the man who could provide both. The Yankees have examined him thoroughly, trying to find out if he is the next Yu Darvish or the next Kei Igawa.
Since the Igawa failure, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has been wary of the double-whammy of shelling out both a posting fee and a salary. Cashman is quick to point out the differences between American and Japanese baseball, beginning with the fact that in Japan, starters go on more than five days rest. The Yankees liked Darvish as a pitcher, but did not make a serious run for him during the posting.
Tanaka certainly has the numbers, having gone 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA this season in Japan. Baseball America's Ben Badler said Tanaka may have the best splitter in the world, while one prominent agent described Tanaka as a No. 3 or 4 starter in the majors.
Using the Japanese market makes a lot of sense in the winter of 2013-14, because if the Yankees' scouting reports project Tanaka as an above-average starter, he'll be a Triple-crown acquisition -- making baseball, financial and public relations sense.
From a purely baseball standpoint, the Yankees need another starter. Right now, they have 40 percent of a staff, and that 40 percent is not guaranteed to be good. The Yankees hope CC Sabathia returns to being an ace while praying that Ivan Nova can be a consistent No. 2 or 3 for an entire season without taking his annual summer vacation to Scranton. They don't know if Hiroki Kuroda will return. They don't know what they will receive from Michael Pineda. And they don't really know yet what they have in David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno or David Huff. So they definitely have a need on the field.
The finances make sense because it helps them to justify, as well as reach, Steinbrenner's goal of dropping the team's salary beneath the $189-million threshold. Tanaka may cost the Yankees a total outlay of $120 million or more, but only half of that would apply toward the luxury tax and revenue sharing.
If Tanaka is what some scouts believe he is, then at a contract similar to Darvish's, the Yankees could have a quality, maybe elite, starter for a little less than $10 million per season. That is $2 million less than what Andy Pettitte made in 2013. So the money, while a lot, seems like it adds up.
Lastly, the Yankees need some buzz. Now, ultimately, I'm not a big fan of making moves based on PR. My feeling is if you win, the fans will come; make good baseball decisions and the rest will take care of itself. But the mystery of Tanaka is an added bonus. He will create a sense of excitement and -- if he is really good -- give the Yankees a lift as they transition to a new era.