Update: Masahiro Tanaka Signs with the NY Yankees
It is truly amazing how quickly things can change in Yankeeland! Masahiro Tanaka will be a Yankee. He has accepted the Bronx Bombers’ offer of $155 million for 7 years. The deal which is the fifth highest in total monetary value for a pitcher in baseball history includes an opt-out clause that Tanaka can exercise after the 2017 season. Tanaka, who’s never thrown a pitch in the major leagues, has a career 99-35 record with a 2.30 ERA and 1,238 strikeouts in 175 games for the Rakuten Golden Eagles who will receive a $20 million posting fee from the Yankees. The 25 year old Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season and was hotly pursued by the Yankees, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers and Diamondbacks but the allure of a potential ticker tape parade down Broadway apparently proved too much for Tanaka to resist. The Yanks will pencil him in as the their number two starter and hope that he is the missing piece of the puzzle that will once again make the Yankees perennial contenders for a world series title. From a fantasy baseball perspective, Tanaka could be anything from Darvishian to Dice-K, but if we had to project a stat line for him, something like 18-12 with a 3.4 ERA, 1.2 WHIP and ~185 K.
2014 New York Yankees - Team Preview
Many so called “experts” predicted that 2013 would be the New York Yankees’ first losing season since 1992. The Yanks defied the odds, played their hearts out, and finished the 2013 season with 85 wins. They weren’t officially eliminated from playoff contention until September 25th.
Most teams would have been satisfied with those results but these are the New York Yankees and any season in which the Bronx Bombers don’t win a world series or at least make the playoffs, is considered a failure in Yankeeland. With only Derek Jeter remaining from the “Core Four” who won 5 World Series titles, the Yankees are a team in transition and ownership and management knew that they would need to get busy this offseason if they were going to pick up the pieces and rebuild their franchise for the long haul. A lot has been made of an alleged mandate from Yankee ownership demanding that the Yankees payroll be kept under the $189 million luxury-tax cap for next season, however Yankee owner Hank Steinbrenner was adamant that the Yankees would do everything they could to improve their ball club, no matter what the cost.
2014 New York Yankees - Key Additions
Masahiro Tanaka, SP
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Brian McCann, C
Kelly Johnson, 3B
Brian Roberts, 2B
Carlos Beltran, RF
2014 New York Yankees - Notable Subtractions
Andy Pettitte, SP
Robinson Cano, 2B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Phil Hughes, SP
Boone Logan, Relief Pitcher
Joba Chamberlain, Relief Pitcher
Mariano Rivera, Closer
2014 New York Yankees - Offseason Goals
Some of the highlights of what the Yanks needed to accomplish this offseason were:
1) Replace Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in the history of the game, who retired last season.
2) Find a substitute for Robinson Cano, the best second baseman in baseball today, who left via free agency.
3) Find a third baseman to take over for Alex Rodriguez, who is serving a season long suspension for his use of PED’s.
Not too tough right? These are the Yankees of course!
2014 Yankees Preview - Offense
The loss of Cano and Rodriguez only made the goal of improving the Yanks’ anemic 2013 offense all that more imperative. Injuries to key superstars like Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez in 2013 caused them to miss significant amounts of time and resulted in the Yankees’ runs scored and home runs totals dropping from 804 and 245 in 2012 to 650 and 144 in 2013.
In order to address this negative trend General Manager Brian Cashman quickly signed centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a 7 year $153 million contract. Ellsbury is a gritty lead off hitter who can hit for average, act as a table setter for the power bats in the middle of the Yankee lineup and he is capable of stealing upwards of 50 bases each season. He hasn’t come close to the 32 homeruns he hit in the 2011 season but the Yanks are hoping that the short porch in Yankee Stadium’s right field will help him regain his power stroke that produced just 9 homers last season. Ellsbury’s health has been a concern over the years, but his defenders point out that his injuries have been the result of his firebrand style of play and not from chronic health issues such as hamstring and groin pulls that have plagued other players. Yankee catchers batted a combined .213 last season and the signing of lefty swinging Brian McCann to a 5 year contract gives them an immediate upgrade in power and defense. McCann’s offensive numbers should also improve given the fact that he will be able to DH from time to time. Carlos Beltran, who has always wanted to be a Yankee, was signed to a three year contract. His regular season offensive numbers declined slightly in 2013 but he should still have enough left in the tank to have a productive season. The Yanks are also hoping that Beltran will have the chance to add to his 16 career postseason homeruns come this fall.
Replacing the games best second baseman, Robinson Cano, will be very difficult to say the least. The Yanks signed 36 year old former second base stand out Brian Roberts to a one year deal but he is a big question mark since he hasn’t played a full season since 2009. Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna and Brendan Ryan will all vie for playing time at second base this season as well, but the Yanks would be thrilled if Roberts could remain healthy and flash just some of the talent that they hope he is still capable of.
Kelly Johnson is expected to see most of the playing time at third base in Rodriguez’s absence. Johnson can still hit for power but his batting average has steadily declined over the years. Expect Eduardo Nunez, Brendan Ryan and Scott Sizemore to challenge Johnson for at bats this spring.
Remember these are the Yankees so don’t be surprised if they make a deal before opening day and trade for a better option at second or third base.
2014 Yankees Preview - Pitching
With Andy Pettitte’s retirement and Phil Hughes having signed with the Minnesota Twins via free agency the Yankees current starting rotation consists of:
With C.C. Sabathia losing a bit off of his fastball last year, and Kuroda running out of gas late in the season and Nova pitching well but only after he had gotten off to a terrible start, there are many question marks surrounding the Yankee starting rotation.
The Yankees think the answer to most of the questions regarding their starting rotation is Masahiro Tanaka. The 25 year old right hander who was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in the Japanese league last season and now that he's signed with the Yankees has a chance of seriously improving the Yankees rotation.
Look for Vidal Nuno, David Phelps, Michael Pineda and Adam Warren to compete in order to be a part of this years Yankee starting rotation. The Yankees hope that they will sign Tanaka and that there will be only one spot left in their rotation.
As for the closer’s role vacated by the immortal Mariano Rivera, it looks like it will be David Robertson’s to lose. Although not currently on the 40 man roster, the Yankees are hoping that right hander Mark Montgomery’s injuries are behind him and that he can use his devastating slider in a significant role in their bullpen this season. The Yanks signed Matt Thornton, the 37 year old lefthander, who has a knack for getting left hitters out, to help strengthen their bullpen which lost Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain this offseason. Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne appear to be the only other locks to be a part of the Yankee bullpen on opening day but the Yanks will look to continue to make moves in order to help bolster their crop of relievers for the upcoming season.
2014 Yankees Preview - Overview
It has been a very busy offseason for the Bronx Bombers. They’ve picked up some nice players but overall they remain an “old” team with many of the players that they are counting on for significant contributions this year north of 30 years old. Can Jeter and Teixeira bounce back from their injury plagued 2013 and produce as expected? Can any of the current options at second base and third base step up and have productive years? Can C.C. Sabathia still be the ace of this staff even without the devastating fastball that has been the signature pitch of his stellar career? Will David Robertson be able to handle the closers job? Will the Yankees win the Tanaka sweepstakes? We’ll have our answers soon enough. It may not always be sunny in Yankeeland but you can bet that when it comes to baseball, it’s always interesting in the Bronx. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride!