Tanaka gets $155 mil., 7-year deal with Yanks

Eagles win Japan Series

THE EAGLE HAS LANDED — Rakuten Eagles ace Masahiro Tanaka pitches during the ninth inning of Game 7 of the Japan Series against the Yomiuri Giants at Kleenex Stadium in Sendai, northeastern Japan, on Nov. 3, 2013. The Eagles beat the Giants 3-0, winning the Japan Series for the first time. On Jan. 22, Tanaka landed a seven-year, $155 million deal with the New York Yankees, allowing him to fulfill his major league dreams.
Kyodo file photo

NEW YORK (Kyodo) — Rakuten Eagles ace Masahiro Tanaka has agreed to a seven-year contract with the New York Yankees, the club announced Jan. 22.

The deal, reportedly worth $155 million, will be the biggest ever for a posted Japanese player. It includes an out clause that would allow Tanaka to leave after four years.

“(Tanaka) has gotten better and better,” Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman said in a conference call Jan. 22, explaining that team scouts had been evaluating the star right-hander since 2007.

“Whether it’s the playoffs or the World Baseball Classic, it seemed like the bigger the game, the more he would step up. The bigger the circumstances in an individual game, he would dial it up. He thrives on the biggest stage.”

“There is a lot of inner desire for him to prove he can succeed in this environment in Major League Baseball as he has just recently succeeded (in Japan),” Cashman said.

Once the contract is signed, the Yankees will owe the Eagles a pre-specified release fee that was capped in the new posting agreement at $20 million. The deadline to officially sign a contract is Jan. 24 in the United States at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

His contract will make Tanaka the fifth-highest paid pitcher in the major leagues. At the top of the list is two-time Cy Young Award-winner Clayton Kershaw, who recently concluded a $215 million, seven-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who has won 137 big league games, has a current agreement for seven years at $180 million, while Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez is being paid $175 million for seven years. Fourth on the list is Tanaka’s future New
York teammate CC Sabathia, whose original seven-year contract with the Yankees was worth $161 million.

The two biggest previous deals for Japanese players moving to the major leagues through the posting system went to pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish. Matsuzaka moved to the Boston Red Sox ahead of the 2007 season for a contract worth $51.11 million, while Darvish agreed to a $56 million deal with the Texas Rangers, whom he joined in 2012. In both cases, their Japanese clubs received in excess of $50 million dollars through the posting system.

Under the old system, only the team making the highest bid could negotiate with a posted player, but the current agreement made Tanaka a virtual free agent — able to sign with any club willing to pay Rakuten’s release fee.

Tanaka went 24-0 with one save in the regular season for the Eagles last year, who went on to win their first Japan Series. Tanaka went 1-1 in the Series and saved Game 7 to close it out. He was named the Pacific League’s MVP and won the prestigious Eiji Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher.

The 25-year-old Tanaka currently joins a Yankees squad with two other Japanese stars, veteran outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda.

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