The New York Yankees defeated the Minnesota Twins by a 5-4 score in spring training on Saturday in Fort Myers, Florida. While it was a good sign that the Yankees were able to beat the Twins, what wasn’t good was the Yankees high priced pitcher Masahiro Tanaka gave up 3 runs in 6 innings of play. Tanaka was touched for 5 hits, 1 walk while striking out 6 hitters in 5 and 1/3 innings.
While this might not be perceived as a bad performance given that the Yankees ultimately got the win, it definitely wasn’t the high level play that the Yankees were counting on getting when they signed the 25-year-old Tanaka to a 7-year, $155 million contract with the team recently. Besides the $155 million that they Yankees are on the hook for with the unproven Tanaka, they also had to pay a $20 million posting fee to his former Japanese team Rakuten in order to start the process of negotiating and ultimately signing Tanaka.
This could play out to be a huge tragedy for the Yankees if Tanaka is unable to play at the high level that the Yankees thought he would be. That $155 million is going to hurt the Yankees ball club for years to come if Tanaka fails to pitch at a high level for them. That’s the problem with teams taking chances on foreign players who have never proven whether they can play at a high level in the minor league level in the United States.
You just don’t know what you’re going to get with a player from a foreign country, and the impressive stats that they put up away from the U.S frequently don’t carry over to the Major League level once they start playing against the best players on Earth. Tanaka finished the 2013 season with Rakuten with a 24-0 record with an ERA of 1.27. You would think that with a pitching record like that, he would be unhittable in the Major Leagues, but that’s not proven to be the case.
Tanaka is not even the best pitcher on the Yankees team right now, and that’s pretty sad because he’s being paid to be the best pitcher.
“I’ve seen him [Tanaka] sharper,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi to AP via USA Today. “I thought the first three innings, he lost a little of his command, but overall I was pleased. I don’t think he had his great stuff today, but he got it done.”