BOSTON — Red Sox manager John Farrell knows the competition just got stiffer.
The New York Yankees signed Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million contract, adding to an already busy offseason for the Bronx Bombers. Farrell said Wednesday that Tanaka certainly will bolster the Yankees’ rotation, although the 25-year-old right-hander will face a completely different situation playing in Major League Baseball.
“With all the reports that we have, they’ve signed a very good pitcher,” Farrell said. “We’re going to see how quickly he transitions to the major leagues here. By every account, he’s a middle-of-the-rotation, top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Given the other additions they’ve made in New York, it just further strengthens the division as a whole.”
The Yankees have been on a free-agent spending spree this winter, signing Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million), Brian McCann (five years, $85 million) and Carlos Beltran (three years, $45 million) to lucrative contracts before landing Tanaka. The pitcher could prove to be as big an addition as any, though, as the Yankees’ starting rotation stood out as a potential weakness.
Tanaka dominated Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball last season, going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who will receive $20 million from the Yankees for posting the pitcher. Tanaka has been favorably compared to Yu Darvish, who has thrived with the Texas Rangers, so the future could be bright for the young hurler. Farrell believes Tanaka’s level of success ultimately could come down to the righty’s ability to adapt.
“I can’t speak specifically to Tanaka, but I think when a Japanese pitcher comes to the States, they’re going to face some things for the first time,” Farrell said. “Maybe some strength in the lineup (up and down the lineup a little bit more), time zone changes (which they don’t have to experience in Japan, where it’s one time zone versus three here), the composition of the mound, the texture of the ball. There’s a number of things they’ll face for the first time. This is a highly sought-after pitcher, so I think there’s a high level of comfort that most teams had in their pursuit of that.”
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said Tuesday that he had discussions with Tanaka and his agent, Casey Close. Evidently, the Yankees’ offer was too rich for the Red Sox’ blood, which makes sense given Boston’s current surplus of starting pitching.