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Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Updated: January 23, 4:08 PM ET
Masahiro Tanaka 'relieved' about deal

Associated Press

TOKYO -- Masahiro Tanaka says he chose to play for the New York Yankees because they appreciated him the most among the many teams who were chasing the prized signature of the star Japanese pitcher.

"They gave me the highest evaluation and are a world-famous team." Tanaka said at a news conference in Japan on Thursday after agreeing to a $155 million, seven-year deal with the Yankees.

Tanaka said he was "relieved" the deal was done and looked forward to standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium.

When asked what his goal will be, Tanaka's response was direct: "To become world champions."

In addition to Tanaka's contract, the Yankees must pay a $20 million fee to his Japanese team, the Rakuten Eagles.

Tanaka's agreement calls for $22 million in each of the first six seasons and $23 million in 2020, and it allows him to terminate the deal after the 2017 season and become a free agent.

Asked to deliver a message to Yankees fans in English, Tanaka said he plans to let his performance on the field do the talking.

"I don't speak English, so I'll just have to win the trust and confidence of the fans with my performance on the field," the 25-year-old right-hander said.

Big league teams had until Friday to reach an agreement with Tanaka, who was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year as the Eagles won the Japan Series title. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs and White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros all said they were among the failed bidders.

The Cubs also made a large offer, according to the Los Angeles Times, but a source told the Chicago Tribune that the Cubs "weren't that close." Their offer was under $150 million, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Dodgers bid over $100 million for Tanaka but were "not anywhere close," a source told the Times, which reported the team did not see Tanaka as a potential ace.

The Astros also bid over $100 million, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The Yankees "took it to a level we weren't comfortable going to in terms of the commitment and the cost," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn told the Chicago Tribune. The Yankees were the only team to offer Tanaka seven years, the Sun-Times reported.

Tanaka said he consulted with 2013 Rakuten teammate Takashi Saito (a reliever for five different major league teams from 2006 to 2012) and Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish about life in the major leagues before deciding on the Yankees.

"Everything will be new and challenging," Tanaka said. "But I have to rely on the ability that got me this far."

Tanaka was 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA in seven seasons with the Eagles, striking out 1,238 in 1,315 innings. Yankees officials have tracked him since 2007, scouting 15 of his games.

The Tanaka deal caps an offseason in which the Yankees have added catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. The four big deals total $438 million.

"We're going to do what we've got to do to win," Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner told The Associated Press. "We had to make sure we had enough pitching to go together with our new lineup."

Tanaka receives the highest contract for an international free agent and the fifth-largest deal for a pitcher, trailing only those of the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw ($215 million), Detroit's Justin Verlander ($180 million), Seattle's Felix Hernandez ($175 million) and the Yankees' CC Sabathia ($161 million under his original agreement with New York).

Tanaka replaces the retired Andy Pettitte in the Yankees' rotation, and joins Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova.