New York Yankees to Sign Masahiro Tanaka for $155 Million
The great Masahiro Tanaka derby is apparently over with the Yankees the winner. No surprise there, as the Yankees were the favorite from the start because of their dire need for another starter and their resources to pay for one. The only question really was whether the Yankees liked Tanaka enough and were willing to forego their stated goal of staying under the $189 million salary cap in 2014.
Tanaka has reportedly received a whopping seven-year $155 million deal which pays him $22 million a year until year seven when he gets $23 million. It gets even better for Tanaka because the contract reportedly contains an opt-out clause after the fourth season.
I’ve said a number of times that I think it’s a mistake for teams to give players opt-outs on contracts this size, most recently here. Opt-outs mean that almost always the teams giving them will ultimately be on the hook for multiple seasons in which the player provides little performance for a huge amount of salary.
The Yankees’ thinking is obvious, however. The opt-out clause almost certainly meant that the Yankees’ contract offer blew every other team’s offer out of the water. The Dodgers and Cubs may have offered similar money and years as the Yankees, but if they did, I doubt they included a fourth-year opt-out.
Pitch worse than hoped for and Tanaka collects his $155 million. Pitch as well as hoped for and Tanaka can opt out before his age 29 season and sign another, potentially larger deal. It’s all sunshine and daffodils for Tanaka. At least, the Yankees can afford it.
The Tanaka contract is expected to put the Yankees well over the $189 million salary cap in 2014. The team will have to pay in 50% percentage of the amount of the overage into the revenue sharing fund.
Big deal — the Yankees make so much money when they field a contender, they can well afford a little revenue sharing, and the Bombers sorely needed the top pitcher on this year’s free agent market in order to compete next season.
Still, I wonder whether the opt-out clause was really necessary given that the years and dollar total had to be competitive with whatever anyone else was offering. The Yankees had a number of other advantages in the hunt for Tanaka (the reputation the Yankees enjoy in Japan, a consistently competitive team, the fact that Tanaka can get pointers from Hiroki Kuroda, and a substantial Japanese-speaking community that Tanaka’s wife wanted) so it seems unlikely the Yankees had to blow Tanaka away to get his signature on a contract.
As a final aside, the owners of the Rakuten Golden Eagles must be crying in their sake or Asahi Dry right now. The new $20 million posting fee cap must have cost them at least $60 million, just an enormous amount of money for one of the Nippon Professional Baseball’s smaller market franchises.