The best pitcher in Japan, 25-year-old Masahiro Tanaka, got a stunning seven-year, $155 million contract from the New York Yankees this week -- plus the Bombers have to pay Tanaka's old team in Japan a $20 million posting fee.
Our friends at Bovada have posted a few props on Tanaka's season. Also take a look at our previous MLB picks story on Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw after he got his mammoth new deal.
Lure Of Big Apple
Is it really a surprise that Tanaka chose the Yankees over the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks? Really, those latter two never had a chance because Tanaka wanted to play in a cosmopolitan market with a big Asian population. The Dodgers and Cubs reportedly never bid more than $120 million over six years so the Yankee offer blew those out of the water. Chicago badly wanted Tanaka to pacify a fan base that is starting to lose interest. L.A. really didn't need him with a front three of Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
New York also sweetened the offer with an opt-out clause after Year 4 as well as a full no-trade clause, plus other perks like a yearly housing allowing, paying for his owner interpreter, a condo inside the Statue of Liberty, etc. Tanaka said he picked the Yankees because they clearly wanted him the most, they are a "world-famous team," and he could win from Day 1 there. Apparently Japanese players can't be honest any more than American ones: It was all about the benjamins.
The Yankees 100 percent needed him the most and rewarded Tanaka with the fifth-largest deal ever for a pitcher because while the offense was fortified this offseason with catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, the rotation is a major question mark. Presumed ace CC Sabathia is trending downward and all those innings are starting to take a toll. Hiroki Kuroda is solid but will be 39 in a few weeks and wasn't so great after last year's All-Star Break. Ivan Nova is also decent but managed only 20 starts in 2013 due to injuries.
New York also had financial reasons for this deal. Ratings on the YES Network and attendance were way down last year because the Yanks didn't have any stars in the lineup most nights due to injuries to Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. So no surprise Tanaka is in the Bronx. The signing jumped New York to 10/1 on the World Series MLB odds, tied for third behind the Dodgers (13/2) and Tigers (17/2).
Yu Darvish Criminally Underpaid Now
I'm not going to pretend I'm a former big-league scout, but all indications are that Tanaka should be a good No. 2 starter. He doesn't have a big-time fastball but a devastating splitter. The general consensus is that Tanaka is no Yu Darvish, the Rangers ace who got a contract worth about $90 million less than Tanaka because Darvish didn't have leverage under the old posting system.
Darvish, who has overpowering stuff, debuted in 2012 with Texas and was 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA. Those Rangers were a good team with a potent lineup, reaching the wild-card game. Bovada's MLB odds lists Tanaka's 2014 totals at over/under 14.5 wins and 3.20 ERA (all options -115). He also is given a +1000 yes-only shot to win the AL Cy Young, which is an option that we do not like for our MLB picks.
Clearly MLB lineups, especially in the American League with the DH, are far superior to those in Japan. To be fair, the Japanese hitters tend to not swing and miss as much and are more about contact. Last year only seven pitchers won more than 14 games in the AL: Max Scherzer, Bartolo Colon, C.J. Wilson, Matt Moore, Chris Tillman, Jeremy Guthrie and Jon Lester. Only Wilson pitched on a losing team. Eight qualified starters had an ERA of under 3.20.
Are the Yankees really that much better than last season's 85-win club? Yes the offense looks improved a bit with the three big additions, but second and third base are ugly. Can Jeter and Mark Teixiera get back to 100 percent off serious injuries? If not, this is the worst offensive infield in baseball. Don't forget Mariano Rivera isn't around to close out all those games, either. The Yanks still are perhaps only the third-best team in their own division.Free MLB picks: Under 14.5 wins, over 3.20 ERA and clearly no Cy Young.