The New York Yankees spent $155 million on a seven year contract for Masahiro Tanaka, the highly touted Japanese pitching phenomenon.
It was the fifth-largest contract for a pitcher in the history of the major leagues, so it’d be expected that the Yankees have some high aspirations for their newest arm, right?
Wrong. Not yet, at least.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in an appearance on ESPN radio’s The Herd with Colin Cowherd that Tanaka has the potential to own the third spot in the Yankees’ pitching rotation for the upcoming season.
“We view him to be a really solid, consistent No. 3 starter,” Cashman said on the radio program. “If we get more than that, all the better. He’s got a great deal of ability.”
There’s undoubtedly a number of transitional difficulties that Tanaka will have to adapt to in order to adjust to baseball at the major league level, including a different baseball and strike zone, stronger opposing lineups, and pitching on five days of rest as opposed to seven.
It seems at least a little questionable, though, why the Yankees would devote so much money to a player who they don’t expect to be a top-of-the-rotation ace right away.
With a starting rotation that features a beleaguered C.C. Sabathia, an injury prone Ivan Nova, and an inconsistent Hiroki Kuroda, it would appear there’s an opportunity to jump to the front of New York’s pitching staff. But Cashman seems to be holding firm to the belief that, at least in the first couple years, expectations of Tanaka should be kept in check.
“No, he is not someone who is going to, in the front end of this thing, pitch in the front of the rotation,” Cashman told Cowherd. “That’s asking too much.”
Many different teams were interested in winning Tanaka’s services, thanks largely to his 24-0 record and 1.27 era in Japan, as well as a splitter that many view as one of the best in the world.
While Cashman tries to lower expectations for the Yankees newest weapon, only time will tell whether their massive investment will be worth it.