The Yankees landed Masahiro Tanaka on Wednesday to the tune of 7 years, $155 million. It’s a huge sum of money to pay for someone who has never pitched in the majors. But if anyone can take this type of gamble, it’s the Yankees.
But let’s be clear, it is indeed a gamble. For $155 million, you’d expect an ace level performance. And though the Yankees already have CC Sabathia, having two potential #1 starters can’t hurt.
So will Tanaka be #1 starter good for the Yankees? No one knows for sure. But what we do know is how good Yu Darvish has been since he came to the majors. And depending on whom you ask, you get differing opinions.
Albert Chen of SI spoke to writers and scouts who have watched both Darvis and Tanaka and it’s pretty unclear if the Yankees are getting an upgrade over Darvish.
Is Tanaka as good as Darvish, the Rangers’ ace about to enter his third year in the majors?
Better? Ask 10 different people who have seen both up close, and you might get 10 different answers.
“Darvish is the better pitcher, right now,” says [Japan Times writer Jason] Coskrey. “Darvish is bigger, he’s stronger, he’s got more of a variety of pitches.”
“Is [Tanaka] worth $100 million? I think he is,” says one scout. “You look at his track record, it’s as impressive as Darvish’s coming out of Japan. His stuff, his talent, will translate.”
“I think he’s a better pitcher than Darvish,” says Japanese baseball writer Jim Allen. “He’s the best pitcher that’s been in Japan, not in terms of stuff — there were other pitchers who were probably as good — but in terms of athleticism, physical build, and mental makeup, there’s never been such a complete package.”
[…] Allen says that Tanaka is the best Japanese pitcher he’s ever seen. “The raw materials on paper are not as good as Darvish,” he says. “But Tanaka has a remarkable ability to limit the damage that bad pitches or bad choices are causing him. He has a rare ability to almost slow the game down — when the plan isn’t working, he has a remarkable ability to go to the back-up plan before he gets into trouble. Darvish still goes through several games trying to work through and figure out what’s wrong. Tanaka makes adjustments probably better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
As for what the Yankees can expect from Tanaka in his first season in the majors, Allen says he wouldn’t be surprised if it was a disappointment to some.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if his first season is a serious disappointment because of the adjustments he has to make, but because he’ll find a way to fix things, in his second season I think he’ll be a monster.”
Who knows if Tanaka is eventually better than Darvish. But if he becomes a “monster” as Jim Allen expects him to, the Yankees’ $155 million gamble would be well worth it.