Tanaka is a risk for Yankees but the rotation looks better to put them on top

Rich Mancuso

Spending never was an issue with the New York Yankees and that $189 million salary threshold by all means was not going to stop them. No spending is not an issue when this organization is idle and not playing baseball in October. And for the Yankees it is not right to be watching, instead of playing baseball in October.

Throw away a theory that the Yankees were not going to spend their precious money, and with the agreement Wednesday in place to sign Japanese right-hander Masaharo Tanaka, they may have assured themselves of playing baseball again this October.

Well from all accounts it appears the Yankees will play baseball in October. It is a long season. There are still questions about the infield with an aging Derek Jeter over at shortstop, second quality talent to fill the holes at second and third, and at first Mark Teixeira is coming off an injury ridden season.

At seven years and $155 million, with an opt-out clause after four years, the seventh highest contract granted to a pitcher, Tanaka is a risk because he has never thrown a Major League Baseball pitch.  But, the Yankees feel they got what they needed.

They saw Tanaka enough to be convinced, his 24-0 record and 1.27 ERA last season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles will work here.  They may have solved the missing pieces of a puzzle.  It gives manager Joe Girardi the leisure of throwing left-hander and ace CC Sabathia, followed by right-handers Hiroki Kuroda, Tanaka, Ivan Nova and David Phelps.

And Michael Pineda, who has not thrown a pitch since being acquired two years ago, could be the other right-hander in the mix along with Vidal Nuno who threw some quality pitches last season.   

A risk of seven years, Tanaka is one of four active pitchers now to have thrown over 1,000 innings, at or before 24-years of age.  The Yankees had the leverage to spend more with the departure of Robinson Cano to Seattle and the certain season-long suspension of Alex Rodriguez.  

So the Yankees were the team once again this off-season spending the money.  With acquiring contracts of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, and now Tanaka, that is a combined $491 million.

Say what you want, this reminds one of the late George Steinbrenner. He took out his wallet and they came to the Bronx. The Steinbrenner sons, Hal and Hank, did not appear to be on that spending spree and perhaps the long-term and bad contract of A-Rod was a reason why.

However, the Yankees do not like to be idle in October. Declining attendance and hearing boos in the new house “That George built” was a message sent to baseball that they were not going to stand still.  They threw out the bad A-Rod contract theory, and had the money.

 All of a sudden a threshold of $189 million was insignificant.

Of course that figure is not important, because from all standards the Yankees have improved by spending money. However, the signing of Tanaka and others does not assure they will go all the way. With improvements they have made a step to be in the post-season this October.

It was 2009, the last time the Yankees spent all this money. You remember, the last time the team won a World Series with Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, oh, and a guy named Alex Rodriguez.

That is in the past of this illustrious Yankees franchise. The emphasis is now and the need to possibly find a replacement for Mariano Rivera, the all-time saves leader because David Robertson may not be suited for that role.

In the meantime, Tanaka will adjust to the different game and pitching to Major League baseball talent. He will get help from Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki who may have influenced his decision coming to the Bronx, a second factor of course to the contract.    

Tanaka tossed eight complete games and recorded two shutouts last season in Japan. He can make a big difference in a pitching staff that still had some question marks but that remains to be determined.

What has been determined is the Yankees have spent their money again, something that had never been an issue.  And this latest signing of Tanaka assured that the organization will never be content unless they are playing baseball in October.

Time will tell if the Tanaka investment was worth the long-term risk. Rest assured for the moment it made the Yankees a better team in their quest for an October return.

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