Masahiro Tanaka’s baseball journey is taking him from Japan to New York.
The Yankees, according to co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, have agreed to a seven-year deal with the Japanese starting pitcher worth $155 million US.
The agreement calls for $22 million in each of the first six seasons and $23 million in 2020. It also includes a full no-trade clause and opt-out clause after the fourth season, allowing Tanaka to test free agency after his age-28 season.
Tanaka receives a $35,000 moving allowance, an annual $100,000 housing allowance to be used in New York or near the team's spring training facility in Tampa, Fla., and an interpreter of the pitcher's choice at an $85,000 yearly salary. In addition to his own flight to the U.S. for each season, Tanaka annually will be provided four first-class round trip tickets between New York and Japan.
Major league teams had until 5 p.m. ET on Friday to sign the star 25-year-old, whom the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese Pacific League agreed to post in late December.
The two Chicago teams, Cubs and White Sox, along with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks were known to have made bids for Tanaka, who sported a 24-0 record and 1.27 earned-run average in 212 innings last season.
The Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs were said to be finalists for the right-hander, with New York bumping offer from six years to seven to secure a deal.
The Toronto Blue Jays reportedly submitted a bid on Tanaka, but were out of the running once contract length surpassed five years.
Recent reports suggested Tanaka's wife preferred to be on the West Coast, perhaps leading to the Yankees' willingness to extend the term of the contract.
'We're going to do what we've got to do to win.' - Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner
New York has been very active this off-season, adding outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran along with catcher Brian McCann after missing the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years.
Including Tanaka, the four big deals total $438 million.
"We're going to do what we've got to do to win," Steinbrenner told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "We had to make sure we had enough pitching to go together with our new lineup."
In early December, the Yankees re-signed pitcher Hiroki Kuroda for one year, filling one of three holes in the rotation behind CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. David Phelps and Michael Pineda are among the pitchers who will battle for the fifth-starter's job at spring training next month.
New York had great success in the Japanese market when it signed outfielder Hideki Matsui, a star from 2003-09 who was the World Series MVP in his final season in pinstripes. But the Yankees had failures with Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa, pitchers who failed to file up to their potential.
His deal pushes the Yankees' payroll for purposes of the luxury tax over $203 million. Barring trades, there is little chance New York will get under the $189 million tax threshold.
Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner had been saying for two years that getting under the tax threshold in 2014 was a goal but wouldn't get in the way of fielding a contending team.
"There has been criticism of myself and my brother the last couple years that, gee, if our dad was still in charge, we'd be spending this and spending that and doing whatever it takes to win," Hank Steinbrenner said, referring to late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. "He didn't have revenue sharing, at least for most of his time.
"That's what these people in the sports media don't seem to get. If it wasn't for revenue sharing, we'd have a payroll of $300 million a year if we wanted to. So we're doing this despite having to pay all that revenue sharing."
Tanaka's contract is the fifth-largest ever for a pitcher, trailing Clayton Kershaw (seven years, $210M with Dodgers), Verlander (seven years, $180M with Detroit) , Felix Hernandez (seven years, $175M with Seattle) & Sabathia's original deal (eight years, $160M with Yankees).
In addition to his contract, New York is required to pay Rakuten a posting fee, now capped at $20 million US under a deal reached earlier this off-season between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball.
Under the old, no-limit system, the Texas Rangers paid over $50 million for the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish before the 2012 season.
During the previous agreement, Boston obtained Daisake Matsuzaka from the Seibu Lions before the 2007 season for $51,111,111.11 and agreed to a $52 million, six-year contract. Texas got Darvish from the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters before the 2012 season for $51,703,411 and gave him a $56 million, six-year deal.
Darvish finished second in 2013 Cy Young Award voting as the top pitcher in the American League.
So what do the Yankees have in Tanaka?
There are some who believe he will be more of a groundball pitcher than strikeout artist.
What we know is he throws his four-seam fastball in the low-90s, but he can ramp it up to 95-96 miles per hour. His money pitch is a swing-and-miss splitter, while also possessing a two-seamer and slider.
Tanaka has shown outstanding control in Japan, posting a 4.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in seven seasons. He also averaged 1.9 walks per nine innings and has limited home runs, giving up 0.5 per nine innings.