The Masahiro Tanaka saga is over, and the Japanese ace is heading to the New York Yankees on a seven-year, $155 million contract. The contract also contains an opt-out clause after four seasons.
New York desperately needed Tanaka, and they got him. He'll join a rotation that features C.C Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova, meaning that the Yankees only have to rely on one of Michael Pineda and David Phelps as opposed to both of them taking spots in their rotation. His signing also means that the team will blow past the $189 million luxury tax threshold, making some of their decisions over the past two offseasons that much more curious.
The real loser here is, of course, the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs went all-out for Tanaka and failed to nab him, meaning that they still don't have that young, top of the line starting pitcher they've been looking for (and no, Jeff Samardzija doesn't count. He turns 29 on Thursday).
The opt-out is an interesting part of this contract. If Tanaka dominates in America like Yu Darvish, he'll have another opportunity to cash in and get a huge contract. If he struggles, it doesn't matter and he's getting his $155 million either way.
But let's not pretend the Yankees have no risk here. They've thrown $474 million at five players this winter (Tanaka, Kuroda, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran), and Tanaka is the only one that will be under 30 on Opening Day. The club has nearly $150 million already committed to their payrolls in both 2015 and 2016 – and seven players are making at least $15 million per season, including Tanaka. They've created a small window for themselves over the next three seasons, and the multiple draft picks they're losing in this June's MLB Draft will make a raw rebuild a difficult venture going forward.
Tanaka's signing also should open the floodgates for the rest of the pitchers on the market, like Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Ervin Santana. I don't think the Cubs would have an interest in any of those guys, but teams like the Diamondbacks and Angels that fell short of signing Tanaka could jump right into the fray for those pitchers. It's going to be a busy few weeks heading into Spring Training, that's for sure.