Yankees GM Brian Cashman is doing his best to temper expectations for his $175 million pitcher. Per ESPN’s Andrew Marchand, Cashman says it would be “asking too much” to expect Tanaka to perform like an ace. Instead, he sees Tanaka as “a really solid, consistent No. 3 starter.”
Cashman expects Tanaka to experience “some growing pains” transitioning from baseball in Japan to baseball in the United States. Specifically, Cashman cited pitching on five days’ rest rather than seven, a different strike zone, and stronger lineups. Yu Darvish, by all accounts a superior pitcher to Tanaka, posted a 3.90 ERA in his first year in the U.S. in 2012, but lowered it to 2.83 this past season with improvements across the board.
On January 22, the Yankees signed Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million contract which also required them to pay a $20 million posting fee to the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japan Pacific League. He was one of many big signings the Yankees made during the off-season. They also signed center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $154 million deal, catcher Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million deal, right fielder Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45 million deal, and Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $16 million deal.
Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.
The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.
The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.
In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.