Yankees Hot Stove: How far will they go to sign Tanaka?

Chung Sung-Jun

Reports are that the Yankees are still extremely interested in the Japanese ace. How does that interest translate into cold hard cash?

It seemed to be the longest running baseball soap opera not starring Alex Rodriguez, but MLB and NPB finally unveiled their newly revamped posting system. And in spite of initial protests from Masahiro Tanaka's current team , the Rakuten Golden Eagles, it appears that Tanaka will actually end up being posted. With the new more competitive nature of the posting process the Yankees won't have the advantage of overwhelming Rakuten with an enormous, luxury tax independent posting fee to negotiate with Tanaka exclusively and should face stiff competition for the pitcher's services.

So with the conditions for acquiring Tanaka finally set, the question becomes just how far the Yankees are willing to go to add him to the franchise. Much of the initial appeal of signing Tanaka was going to be the Yankees ability to defer much of his total cost to his posting fee and work under the 189 million dollar ceiling. Now, the Yankees have to forego any delusions of working with "Plan 189" if they're going to acquire Tanaka. Early estimates have his eventual contract nearing an AAV of 20 million dollars, which would more than shoot the team past the luxury threshold. Alex Rodriguez getting any sort of suspension could change that, but I sincerely hope the Yankees are not counting on those ongoing and incredibly convoluted proceedings as part of their financial planning.

So there's no added value to signing Tanaka. It's not like Yu Darvish's situation where the exorbitant posting fees resulted in Texas ending up with an incredibly underpaid asset. Tanaka is going to paid like he's one of the better pitchers in the league while being totally unproven at the MLB level. Unfortunately, the Yankees don't have much of a choice. They have (at least) one large hole in their rotation for 2014 and much of their in-house 30 and under pitching talent has question marks, be they health-related or otherwise. When you don't have rock solid internal options, you have to take chances by ponying up some hefty money for outside elite talent. And Tanaka is just that sort of talent.

With a lot of teams willing and able to take on the new, nominal posting fee the pursuit of Tanaka is liable to get incredibly crowded. But with the Yankees apparently opting to pass on the crop of other free agent starting pitchers, Tanaka becomes an imperative. The team opted to draw the line with Robinson Cano, but they shouldn't here. Open up the checkbook and go as high as you need to go to obtain Masahiro Tanaka. The initial inclination is that the team is going do what it takes to bring Tanaka to New York, so I'm going to err on the side of optimism. With the departure of Cano, it's much harder to just assume the Yankees will just throw bags of money at a great player but I still believe restraint is not yet the law of the land in the empire. It's going to be difficult to consider the offseason a success if they lose out on this superstar as well.

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