Thursday, January 23, 2014

Good luck to the Yankees with overpriced unproven Japanese pitcher version 3.0

I wonder how good Tanaka's "gyroball" is?
With football season now officially over around here, it's a good time to start talking about baseball.  On Wednesday the Yankees spent $175 million on a Japanese pitcher who's never faced a single MLB batter.  They paid $20 mil to his old team, and another 155 on a seven-year contract.  At roughly $22 million per season, Masahiro Tanaka will now be one of the 7 highest paid pitchers in baseball, and among the top 13 most expensive players overall.  New York is even giving him more money than Jacoby Ellsbury (7 years, $153 mil), but I'll get back to that later.

The obvious comparison to Tanaka is the 2006 Japanese wunderkind Daisuke Matsuzaka, for whom the Red Sox paid $51 million for his rights, then another $52 mil for a six-year deal.  Matsuzaka's final numbers in Boston: 50-37, a 4.52 ERA, and a 1.42 WHIP.  Extremely mediocre seems to be the best way to describe his performance.  Clearly the Yankees weren't scared off by this, but you might think they might be a little more wary of their own history.

Once upon a time there was another Japanese phenom by the name of Hideki Irabu.  In 1997 the Padres bought Irabu's rights from his team in Japan, but Irabu only wanted to play for New York.  The Yankees obliged, trading for him and inking a four-year $12.8 million dollar deal.  Irabu lasted just two and a half seasons in New York, while posting a 29-20 record, 4.80 ERA, and 1.36 WHIP.  By the end of 2002 he was gone from MLB altogether.  I'm not exactly sure how to respectfully tie this in, but I think it has to be mentioned that Irabu killed himself in 2011.

As ridiculous as this Tanaka deal seems, at least the Yankees are doing something.  I was in favor of the Red Sox re-signing Jacoby Ellsbury at all costs.  While New York was spending nearly half a billion this winter (they also brought in catcher Brain McCann for 5 years, $85 million, and outfielder Carlos Beltran for 3 years, $45 mil), on the same day the Yankees added Tanaka Boston signed Grady Sizemore for one year, $750,000.  If this was 6 or 7 years ago Sizemore would be a worthy replacement for Ellsbury, but if he manages to suit up for the Red Sox in 2014 it'll be Sizemore's first MLB appearance since 2011.

If you have another 5 minutes to spare I highly recommend reading this Yahoo article in which I discuss my concerns about the defending World Series champions' lack of offseason activity.

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