One probably couldn't get away with calling Masahiro Tanaka deciding to sign with the Yankees "dramatic." The Yankees seemed like the logical fit, they have plenty of money, and Tanaka expressed a desire to play in a large market such as New York. Despite the feeling of inevitability, there were still plenty of hot takes about the size of the deal, Tanaka's potential, and what it means for the Yankees famed "Plan 189."
Size of the deal
While the sticker price of 7 years, $155 million is the lead story at almost every news outlet, Buster Olney of ESPN calls attention to the fact that Tanaka signed for $99 million more than Yu Darvish, whom most consider a superior arm. Clearly, the new posting rules dramatically altered the market for Tanaka.
Peter Gammons also wasn't alone in pointing out that Casey Close, Tanaka's agent, did excellent work negotiating a deal that will not only make his client a very rich man, but will also give him the opportunity to opt out after four seasons and earn another massive payday while still in his prime. Close, who also represents Clayton Kershaw, had a pretty good week, as he negotiated a big deal with an opt-out for the Dodgers' ace as well.
Casey Close of Excel Management did a masterful job with the contracts of Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Tanaka because of the opt-outs. If Greinke wishes to opt out after his four years, he can go back on the market at the age of 33 after those four seasons in the National League West ballparks. Kershaw’s deal is really five years, $150 with two player options, and if he continues at his current Mozartian pace, he will pitch his first game on a new deal a couple of weeks past his 31st birthday. Tanaka’s deal is four years, $88M with three player options, and can be back on the market at 30.
Although, it's possible that the Yankees could have been able to spend the money a little more wisely, avoiding situations like this:
Yankees have $5.50 left in the budget, which will be used to duct tape Mark Teixeira back together— Matt Sussman (@suss2hyphens) January 22, 2014
Tanaka as an MLB starter
Jim Callis of MLB.com says he would rank Tanaka among the ten best prospects in baseball entering 2014, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild is obviously bullish on Tanaka as well, identifying his four-pitch mix, arm strength, and tenacity on the mound as big points in his favor. Scouts also raved to David Waldstein of the New York Times about Tanaka:
Tanaka’s signature pitch is a split-finger fastball, which scouts say is as close to an unhittable offering as there is in baseball these days. One scout for a National League team said Tanaka could throw between 90 and 97 miles per hour and "dials it up when he needs to." Tanaka also throws a very good slider, but his curveball and his changeup are considered average by major league standards.
That said, Tanaka may not be able to live up to the break-neck speed at which satire infects Twitter in the United States, considering he's still struggling to decide on his new avatar. Cespedes Family Barbecue, fortunately, is here to help.
You see, Mr. Tanaka wanted to select a new twitter avatar and just could not decide which picture to choose. So while the rest of the baseball internet is laughing at their own stupidity, I’ve decided to tackle the real issue here: that Masahiro is still stuck with his current Twitter AVI. Rather than doing something trivial with my time, I’m going to give the Japanese hide-slinger some options for a new Twitter avatar that helps him appeal to his new American fan base.
Steven Goldman of SB Nation thinks Tanaka can make a difference for the Yankees, but if they were going to junk Plan 189, they shouldn't have let it hold them back as they limped through 2013.
Even then, though, they were probably just one player away, one good move the previous offseason, from making a strong run at October. If the commitment to $189 million was so ephemeral, if they were going to do a 180 and spend roughly $500 million the following winter, why tank a whole season? The lesson here is an old one: If you're already that close to the postseason, it's smarter to spend the extra dollars than not...
Goldman's opinion was a popular one that was echoed by Tanya Bondurant of Pinstripe Bible.
The 2013 season was one of misery in which a hot dog vendor might have been able to stick at third base and you or I would have likely been a better answer at catcher, ultimately resulting in the Yankees missed the playoffs for the second time since 2007. Was sticking to Plan 189 really worth it to the richest team in MLB?
For today, it's time to be at least a little excited for what this means for our favorite baseball team and official say goodbye to Plan 189. May we never hear of it again.
If anyone is upset about the Yankees ditching their Plan 189, it's the rest of the league which was looking forward to another year in which they didn't have to worry about the Yankees as a serious threat, but also Joel Sherman, who wrote more Plan 189 stories than anyone could ever read.