It seems like the Rakuten Golden Eagles’ hero Masahiro Tanaka – fresh from leading the team from the tsunami-ravaged region of Tohoku to its first Japan major league baseball title – is going to be hot property this off season, as was predicted by Japanese sports analysts. The New York Yankees, one of U.S. Major League Baseball’s storied franchises, is reportedly planning a big bid to acquire Japan’s number one pitcher, big enough that it has cast itself as the team to beat in the race for Tanaka’s signature.
The foremost reason for the Yankees’ strong interest is the Japanese hurler’s undeniable talent and quality. The 25-year-old right-hander went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA this season, breaking his win streak by losing the first game of the championship in a monster 160-pitch effort. He came back the next game by pitching the last 15 pitches in what proved to be the title-clinching victory for the Eagles, and was inundated by the gratitude of the fans for a title-winning season. The Yankees’ pitching rotation currently includes CC Sabathia – whom most analysts say is on the decline – and Ivan Nova, with the younger Michael Pineda and Manny Banuelos also serving as possibilities for the lineup. In addition to to Tanaka, the Yankees also plan to be active in the pitcher free agent market, looking at Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Dan Haren.
Another reason for Tanaka’s appeal to the Yankees is that posting fees for Japanese players do not count against the MLB luxury tax, meaning the Yankees could acquire a top-line pitcher while having only a fraction of the money spent count toward their 2014 payroll. The New York franchise, aiming to put in a decent effort towards the post-season, is looking to keep player salaries below US$189 million next season, which would reset their tax rate. Tanaka is preceded by a number of Japanese picks that did not particularly work out for the Yankees – pitchers Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa. But the Yankees are confident that Tanaka’s temperament would be closer to another Yankee success from Japan, that of Hideki Matsui.
[via Yahoo Sports]