And now, the big news we’ve been waiting for:
The Yankees officially announced the Tanaka signing this afternoon.
Many, including this writer, assumed the Dodgers were the front-runners. But that’s what one gets for assuming. The Yankees, of course, have always been mentioned as a strong possibility as well. New York provides a huge platform, the Yankees have deep pockets and, of course, Tanaka’s agent Casey Close is also Derek Jeter’s agent, providing a long track record of business dealings between him and the Yankees brass.
This puts to an end the Yankees’ alleged goal of getting the payroll below $189 million and thus avoiding luxury tax payments. But that’s Hal Steinbrenner’s problem, not Yankees’ fans. More important to them is that the Yankees now have a front line starter to go along with CC Sabathia at the top of the rotation. If Tanaka can come anywhere close to approximating his work in Japan and if Sabathia regains his old form, the Yankees’ 1-2 punch will be hard to match.
As for what he did in Japan: a 99-35 record with a 2.35 ERA and 1,238 strikeouts against 275 walks in 1,315 innings pitched across seven seasons. In 2013 he was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and a 183/32 K/BB ratio in 212 innings, leading the Rakuten Golden Eagles to the NPB World Series title.
Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with the media today. Naturally, he was asked various questions about the landscape of the sport, given that superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper remain unsigned as spring training begins. Per The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli, Manfred said that he thinks the free agent market will begin to move once spring training exhibition games begin. Manfred also said that Harper’s camp suggesting that he wants $400 million back in 2016 was “an impediment” to discussions throughout the offseason.
No word on why Machado is also as yet unsigned, as he did not have a reported $400 million ask.
Manfred’s job is to look out for ownership, so it’s not surprising to see him point the finger at Harper. Consider:
Manfred’s comment comes just months after the Red Sox won 108 regular season games and the World Series with baseball’s largest payroll. And ongoing evidence that there is indeed a positive correlation between dollars spent and team success. We often hear justification for tanking/rebuilding because the Cubs and Astros did it and won championships because of it. When the Red Sox use financial muscle to win a championship, it’s crickets.
Manfred didn’t stop there, however.
An easy way to get baseball’s “glow” back would be for two of the game’s best and most popular players to be in uniform playing games. The first spring training exhibition game will be played on February 22, so it’s not looking like that’s going to happen anytime soon.
Baseball’s “glow” would also come back if more teams were actively trying to win. Instead, one-third of the league is “rebuilding” or otherwise coasting on revenue-sharing. For fans of the Rangers, Orioles, Royals, and Marlins — to name a few — the outcomes of their favorite teams’ seasons have already been decided, so what is there to get excited about?