Yankees sign Masahiro Tanaka: The state of the rotation

Adam Pretty

This could be the rotations of A's

The Yankees have signed Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million contract to join their once-uncertain starting rotation. The Japanese right-hander joins CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova for the 2014 campaign with a fifth starter that still needs naming. Out of those four he will be the youngest pitcher already pencilled in and will likely be younger than any of the options the Yankees have as a fifth starter.

CC Sabathia will remain the rotation's No. 1 starter and get the ball Opening Day, though there are certainly a lot of question marks surrounding him. He has once again lost a substantial amount of weight, or has simply trimmed down, as he puts it, but will that mean better success in 2014 than he showed in 2013? CC's lack of body mass could be causing his mechanics to go out of whack, resulting in his drop in velocity and arm slot. He will be a whole year removed from elbow surgery, so we'll see whether that was the cause of his struggles or if it was the weight loss. If he shows he can still be the ace the Yankees re-upped with then Tanaka is just gravy.

At this point Masahiro Tanaka will probably be slotted into the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind CC. He could end up being the Yankees' best pitcher this season, but keeping him out of the first spot could help deflect any pressure he might be feeling to live up to his contract or make an impression to all of Major League Baseball. He likely won't be the ace that Yu Darvish has been, but having a very good pitcher that doesn't have to be relied on to be the big man of the rotation, and at his age, will do a lot to add depth to the Yankees pitching staff. Brian Cashman finally has the No. 2 starter he has always wanted.

Hiroki Kuroda was essentially the ace of the Yankee staff last season with CC continuing to disappoint, however, his second-half fall has left the Japanese veteran with many questions that need answering. Will he be the first-half Kuroda or second-half Kuroda? Something in the middle? His 2014 performance is pivotal to the Yankees' hopes for a deep rotation. If he's on, the Yankees have three different ace-like pitchers, if not, then the rotation begins to fall apart in the middle and Tanaka will have to carry some extra weight.

With Tanaka in the fold, Ivan Nova will get pushed down to the No. 4 starter, taking a lot of pressure off him to hold the rotation together. It's kind of up in the air as to what kind of pitcher Nova can be on a regular basis; he's been awful, he's been hurt, and he's been amazing, all in the same season, so it's hard to tell what the Yankees will be getting from him. He ended the 2013 season on a high note, but were the changes he made permanent? If he can just be league-average or slightly above then thats all he needs to contribute.

The fifth start spot is still very much open, and now that Tanaka has been signed, the Yankees will likely want to keep that spot internal. If they hold a competition in spring training, the likely contestants will include Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and possibly Manny Banuelos. If the Yankees can finally see some kind of contribution from Pineda it will be a miracle that his career wasn't wrecked by injury. Phelps will likely want another chance in the rotation after the mixed results he produced last year and Nuno could provide some solid production as another lefty in the rotation. ManBan might be returning to action after a year and a half off from Tommy John surgery, but he's likely to start the season in Triple-A over making the rotation out of spring.

I'll be rooting for Michael Pineda to return to form and provide some kind of value because I don't think Phelps is cut out for regular starting work. We'd all like to see ManBan make it, but I think he needs time to re-establish himself first before he makes the jump. Just imagine Pineda being good, though. How great of a rotation would Sabathia/Tanaka/Kuroda/Nova/Pineda be? The A's have it. Hopefully.

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